The weather in London this week has been rainy while sunny, which feels like a fair description of current sentiment, as we've been discussing our mid-year outlook with investors this week. There's a wide range of views out there at the moment, with the noisiness of the data giving everyone something to hang their hat on. In short, it's the perfect time to step back and debate the longer-term outlook.
The most notable aspect of our forecasts, and one of the most contentious areas of debate, is just how much our expectations differ from the prior decade. The post-GFC period was defined by fiscal austerity, low investment, a deleveraging consumer and central banks acting pre-emptively to choke off inflationary risk. Indeed, for all that we associate 'easy policy' with the last cycle, the PBOC tightening in 2010, the ECB hiking in 2011 and the Fed hiking in 2015 were all aggressive early moves to nip inflation in the bud.
Our expectations this time around couldn't be more different. Fiscal policy is historically expansionary. The consumer in the US, Europe and China is in outstanding shape, with record levels of savings. We see a 'red-hot capex cycle' and public and private sector investment increasing. Global real rates are still near all-time lows. As my colleague Chetan Ahya noted in last week's Sunday Start, fiscal easing, cheap money, a strong consumer and more investment are four powerful cylinders in the proverbial economic engine.
But just as notable is the expected policy response. In the face of strong growth, we think that central banks remain unusually standoffish. For the Fed, it's a focus on still-elevated unemployment, coupled with a recent commitment to average inflation targeting. For the ECB, it's awareness of a long-running inflation undershoot and memories of the 2011 hikes. For China, it's taking a more gradual approach to tightening than after the last downturn.