OECD slashes growth forecasts, urges aggressive ECB action

The OECD slashed its growth forecasts for major developed economies on Monday, urging much more aggressive ECB stimulus to ward off the risk of deflation in a subdued eurozone.

The call adds to growing pressure on the eurozone, and the European Central Bank in particular, to boost growth ahead of a meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 economic powers later this week in Australia.

Updating its growth forecasts for major developed economies, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development projected growth in the eurozone at only 0.8 percent this year and rising only slightly next year to 1.1 percent.

That marked a sizable downgrade from its May Economic Outlook for the eurozone, when the Paris-based organization forecast growth of 1.2 percent in 2014 and 1.7 percent in 2015.

In comparison, the OECD saw the United States’ economy growing 2.1 percent this year before accelerating to 3.1 percent in 2015. In May the OECD forecast US growth of 2.6 percent this year and 3.5 percent next year.

The United States is set to push European countries at the G20 meeting to step up measures to boost demand and economic growth in the face of the risk of deflation, according to a senior official at the US Treasury on Friday.

The OECD said that though eurozone inflation, at a five-year low in August of 0.4 percent, should strengthen as demand recovers, low levels close to zero raised the risk of deflation.

“Given the low-growth outlook and the risk that demand could be further sapped if inflation remains near zero, or even turns negative, the OECD recommends more monetary support for the euro area,” the organization said in a statement accompanying its forecasts.

“Recent actions by the European Central Bank are welcome, but further measures, including quantitative easing, are warranted,” it added.

The ECB recently cut the cost of borrowing to near zero and pledged to buy repackaged debt in an effort to encourage lending to credit-starved companies.

However, so far it has shied away from the kind of quantitative easing carried out by counterparts in the United States and Japan, consisting of a huge campaign of buying government and other bonds to lower the cost of borrowing. [Reuters]

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