How the Stimulus Could Power a Rebound in Other Countries

on Apr4
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Washington’s robust spending in response to the coronavirus crisis is helping to pull the United States out of its sharpest economic slump in decades, funneling trillions of dollars to Americans’ checking accounts and to businesses.

Now, the rest of the world is expected to benefit, too.

Global forecasters are predicting that the United States and its record-setting stimulus spending could help haul a weakened Europe and struggling developing countries out of their own economic morass, especially when paired with a rapid vaccine rollout that has poised the U.S. economy for a faster recovery.

As Americans buy more, they should spur trade and investment and invigorate demand for German cars, Australian wine, Mexican auto parts and French fashions.

The anticipated economic rebound in the United States is expected to join China’s recovery, adding impetus to world output. China’s economy is forecast to expand rapidly this year, with the International Monetary Fund predicting 8.1 percent growth. That is good news for countries like Germany, which depends on Chinese demand for cars and machinery.

Yet the United States is particularly important to the world economy because it has long spent more than it makes or sells, spreading dollars globally. China is one of the major beneficiaries of Washington’s largess because many Americans have spent their stimulus checks on video game consoles, exercise bicycles or other products made in China.

The United States’ comparatively fast recovery was neither guaranteed nor expected: It was the result of a little bit of luck — new variants of the virus that have coursed through other countries have just begun to push infections higher in the United States — and a large policy response, including more than $5 trillion in debt-fueled pandemic relief spending passed into law over the past 12 months. Those trends, paired with the accelerating spread of effective vaccinations, seem likely to leave the American economy in a stronger position.

“When the U.S. economy is strong, that strength tends to support global activity as well,” Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, said at a recent news conference.

A year ago, it was not at all certain that the United States would gain the strength to help lift the global economy.

Since then, the U.S. government has passed a $1.9 trillion relief package, and the I.M.F. has signaled that the estimates for the country’s growth will be marked up further when it releases fresh forecasts on Tuesday.

The recent relief package continues a trend: America has been willing to spend to combat the pandemic’s economic fallout from the start.

America’s initial pandemic response spending, amounting to a little less than $3 trillion, was 50 percent larger, as a share of gross domestic product, than what the United Kingdom rolled out, and roughly three times as much as in France, Italy or Spain, based on an analysis by Christina D. Romer at the University of California, Berkeley.

Among a set of advanced economies, only New Zealand has borrowed and spent as big a share of its G.D.P. as the United States has, the analysis found.

In Europe, where workers in many countries were shielded from job losses and plunging income by government furlough programs, the slow pace of the European Union’s vaccination campaign will probably hurt the economy, said Ludovic Subran, the chief economist of German insurance giant Allianz.

On Wednesday, France announced its third national lockdown as infected patients fill its hospitals.

Mr. Subran also questioned whether the European Union can distribute stimulus financing fast enough. The money from a 750 billion-euro, or $880 billion, relief program agreed to by European governments in July has been slow to reach the businesses and people who need it because of political squabbling, creaky public administration and a court challenge in Germany.

Karen Dynan, a former U.S. Treasury Department chief economist who is now at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, estimated that economic output would take at least a year longer to return to prepandemic levels in Europe than it would in the United States.

“Fiscal policy has differed across countries in ways that are really shaping the experience they have now,” Ms. Dynan said.

Philip Lane, chief economist of the European Central Bank and a member of the policymaking Governing Council, said the strength of the U.S. economy was generally good news for Europe. But, in an interview on Monday, he warned that rising market interest rates could be a burden for the eurozone economy.

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