IMF cuts forecast for US economy, upgrades Europe and Japan

Friday, April 10, 2015, Vol. 39, No. 15

WASHINGTON (AP) — The International Monetary Fund, citing the consequences of a strong dollar, is downgrading its outlook for the U.S. economy but raising its forecast for Europe and Japan.

The IMF predicted Tuesday that the American economy will grow 3.1 percent this year and next — a performance the fund characterized as "robust." But the U.S. outlook was down from the IMF's January forecast of 3.6 percent growth in 2015 and 3.3 percent growth in 2016. The American economy advanced 2.4 percent last year.

The IMF forecast that the 18 European countries that use the euro currency collectively will expand 1.5 percent in 2015 and 1.6 percent in 2016, up from a January forecast of 1.2 percent growth this year and 1.4 percent next. The eurozone grew just 0.9 percent last year.

The fund expects Japan to grow 1 percent this year and 1.2 percent next year, versus an earlier forecast of 0.6 percent this year and 0.8 percent in 2016. The Japanese economy shrank 0.1 percent in 2014.

The IMF expects the world economy to grow 3.5 percent in 2015, barely up from 3.4 percent last year and unchanged for its January forecast. The international lending agency also left unchanged its prediction that the Chinese economy will grow 6.8 percent this year, down from 7.4 percent in 2014.

Most of the world's economies are benefiting from sharply lower oil prices. The price of a barrel of oil has plunged to less than $52 a barrel, half what it was a year ago.

Since June 30, the U.S. dollar has climbed 29 percent against the euro and 19 percent against the Japanese yen. A strong dollar makes U.S. products more expensive, giving European and Japanese exporters a price advantage.

Moreover, the Federal Reserve is expected to raise short-term U.S. interest rates this year after keeping them near zero for more than six years. The European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan are moving the opposite direction, pursuing easy money policies meant to stimulate economic growth.

The IMF warned that the U.S. faces long-term challenges, arising from low population growth and unimpressive productivity gains.