The World Bank delivered sobering news this week in its latest “Global Economic Prospects” report, forecasting that global growth will continue to decline for the third straight year in 2024. At just 2.4%, worldwide expansion will mark the weakest five-year period since the early 1990s.
While the US economy has so far avoided recession despite high inflation and interest rate hikes, this prolonged global slowdown spells troubling times ahead for American companies, consumers and investors.
With economic growth slowing across most regions, demand for US exports is likely to take a hit. That’s especially true among major US trading partners like Europe and China, where growth is expected to continue decelerating. Weakening global demand could mean reduced overseas profits for US corporations.
At home, slower worldwide growth often translates to weaker job creation and output in export-reliant industries like technology, aerospace, agriculture and oil. Though the US economy is more insulated than many countries, cooling global demand would threaten domestic growth and productivity.
For American consumers, a slumping world economy means higher prices and tightening budgets. As other nations buy fewer US goods, the dollar strengthens against foreign currencies. That makes American products and services more expensive for international buyers, compounding the export slowdown.
Meanwhile, weaker global growth tends to reduce international appetite for oil and other commodities, bringing down prices. But previous commodity plunges didn’t translate into much consumer relief at the gas pump or grocery store. US inflation has shown stubborn persistence despite declining global demand.
For investors, a rocky global economy brings heightened volatility and uncertainty. US stocks often suffer from reduced exports, earnings and risk appetite. Bonds become more attractive as a safe haven, but provide little income. International investments also falter as foreign economies sputter.
With developing nations hit hardest by the global downturn, their stocks and currencies become riskier bets. Investing in emerging markets seems particularly perilous as growth in those countries lags the developed world by a widening margin.
But it’s not all gloomy news for investors. Some experts argue that ongoing globalization and diversification make the US less vulnerable to foreign slowdowns than in the past. Plus, some areas like the travel, manufacturing and technology sectors could see gains from specific international developments.
And slowdowns inevitably give way to upswings. The World Bank sees global growth accelerating slightly in 2025. Meanwhile, strategists say investors should take advantage of market overreactions to bad news to buy quality stocks at bargain prices – potentially reaping big rewards when conditions improve.
Still, there’s no doubt the darkening global outlook presents mounting risks for the US in the next few years. With other major economies struggling, America can’t escape the coming storm entirely.
Navigating the choppy waters ahead requires prudent preparation. The World Bank urges policy reforms to enable productivity-enhancing investments that could reignite US and global growth. But in the meantime, Americans must brace for bumpier times, with US growth, jobs and earnings likely to suffer collateral damage from the world’s economic travails.