Despite the political uncertainties, the global economy gathered momentum in 2017. The stock markets exhibited a stable upwards trend accompanied by low volatility. Inflation was restrained while long-term interest rates were stalled at low levels.
Throughout the world, the economy in almost all key countries accelerated sharply in 2017. Boosted by consumer spending and also by significantly higher investment activity, global growth was stronger than at any time since 2010. The USA, the euro zone and Japan again reported strong gains. The UK’s economy started to feel the uncertainties associated with its decision to leave the EU (Brexit).
Positive signals were received from the larger emerging markets. In Asia, growth on the whole was robust. In China, the pace of economic expansion slowed only slightly even though the monetary impulses were reduced and credit growth decreased. Brazil and Russia experienced a rather halting and hesitant recovery, while in India the recent cash and tax reforms had the effect of a sharp brake on economic momentum.
For 2018 and 2019, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects an increase of 3.9 percent in global economic growth with Europe and Asia being the strongest drivers of the current upswing.
The first year of Donald Trump’s presidency saw the US economy increase the pace of its expansion. In 2017, according to data from the Department of Trade, it increased by 2.3 percent. The strengthening of the basic economic trend was largely attributable to sharp rises in investments while the robust demand from private households continued unabated.
President Trump plans to boost growth to at least three percent through a radical tax reform, among other measures. The International Monetary Fund expects an increase of 2.7 percent.
The euro zone economy has gained robust momentum. Eurostat, the statistics office, recorded an increase of 2.5 percent in economic performance in 2017. Both consumption and investments continued to grow. The increased investment activity is probably largely attributable to the positive global economic environment and the disappearance of some major risks caused by the Europe-friendly results of elections in France and the Netherlands, as well as stable growth in China. It is noteworthy that, in the meantime, the upswing has commenced in almost all the euro member countries.
Switzerland / Liechtenstein
According to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the Swiss economy returned to a path of dynamic, broadly-based growth in the third quarter of 2017. The shock caused by the lifting of the minimum exchange rate of Swiss franc to the euro by the Swiss National Bank in January 2015, which caused a rise in the franc of around 20 percent, has in the meantime been largely absorbed. Only the construction sector still shows a tendency to weakness. As a result of international impulses combined with a slight decline in the Swiss franc, exports continued their upward trend.
On account of the weak first half year, growth in gross domestic product for 2017 posted only a moderate rise of one percent. Economists are expecting economic growth of 2.3 percent for 2018. SECO forecasts growth will be 1.9 percent for 2019.
According to the Department for Statistics, for 2017 Liechtenstein reported goods exports totalling CHF 3.4 billion – excluding trade with and via Switzerland. This represents an increase of 0.5 percent compared with 2016. In spite of the positive development in recent years, direct exports are still substantially below the level attained in 2008. Direct imports rose in 2017 to around CHF 2 billion. In comparison with the previous year, they therefore increased by one percent.
The expansion in exports is attributable to the metal and machinery sector. Exports to Asia climbed in particular, followed by those to Europe, which takes 60.9 percent of Liechtenstein’s goods exports; 18.9 percent go the USA, and 18.4 percent to Asia.