THERE are tentative signs that Singapore's worst ever recession is over and a strong V-shaped recovery is to follow over the rest of this year, according to HSBC's Asian Economics report for the third quarter.
'Unemployment is expected to peak at the end of this year at 4.2 per cent and then come down to 3.4 per cent at the end of 2010,' said Robert Prior-Wandesforde, HSBC senior Asian economist, at a media briefing for Asian Outlook 2009.
'For Singapore, we're looking at negative 6 per cent GDP growth this year, towards the better end of the government's forecast range. For 2010, we're looking at positive 5.3 per cent growth.'
For Asia ex-Japan, GDP growth is expected to 4.2 per cent this year, and 6.9 per cent in 2010.
'We are optimistic about the recovery and we see increased evidence that recovery has begun,' Mr Prior-Wandesforde said.
In the Asian Economics report for Q3, three overlapping stages of the recovery process which underpin HSBC's belief in a sustained pick-up in growth are discussed - initial post-crisis relief bounce, effects of various policy stimulus packages across Asia, and the self-sustaining phase of growth.
'Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, there was a feeling that we were heading into a second great depression, the end of the financial world as we know it,' said Mr Prior-Wandesforde.
'But thanks to the very aggressive policy action that is being taken by governments and central banks around the world, particularly the US, it seems to us that scenario is pretty much gone.'
Asia ex-Japan will see quarter-on-quarter annualised GDP growth of more than 8 per cent in the second quarter, the report says. 'Omens are looking even better for the third quarter, with double-digit quarter-on-quarter annualised GDP growth.'
The HSBC coincident indicator includes Chinese and South Korean composite lead indicators, the Commodity Research Bureau index, German IFO business expectations and the S&P 500 equity market index.
This means that 'we can rule out an L-shaped kind of recovery, and also an U-shaped one', explained Mr Prior-Wandesforde.
The second phase relates to various policy stimulus packages put in place across Asia - the biggest and most synchronised easing of fiscal policy and monetary policy ever.
It is estimated that these will add 'at least one per cent of GDP growth in the region this year and another 2 per cent in 2010'.
'This reflects the length of time it often takes in Asia to get these infrastructural projects in place, and also the fact that monetary policy works with a significant lag in Asia - with 12 to 24 months' lag being typical,' noted Mr Prior-Wandesforde.
With all these policy effects stimulating domestic demands within Asia, it is expected to 'at least create a regional trade recovery before world recovery'.
Tracking the level of Asia ex-Japan private consumption and investment as a proportion of the equivalent series for the US, the latter was actually 20 per cent higher than its American counterpart last year.
Asian private consumption came to just 40 per cent of the US level in 2008 but it has grown more in absolute terms in each of the last two years.
'Our Asia ex-Japan and China export lead indicator points to a pick-up in year-on-year real export growth Q309,' Mr Prior-Wandesforde said.
'It's typically the most open economies, like Singapore and Malaysia that crashed the most, which we think will see the greatest trade recovery kicking in.'
Source: Business Times, 14 July 2009