The US is currently in the 60th month of economic expansion, and appears poised for a year of 3.0% output growth after a weather-driven downturn during the first quarter. The unemployment rate could drop below 6.0% in the near future, but the Federal Reserve will not raise interest rates until it sees signs of wage inflation. Europe is finally growing after nearly two years of recession, but growth is not robust. The European Central Bank will remain highly accommodative in order to resist deflation and encourage a weaker euro. Japan had good growth before the recent value-added tax hike. It will produce a 5-7% real GDP contraction during the second quarter, but most analysts expect a slow rebound during the third quarter. As wage growth remains lackluster, consumer spending could be weak and force the Bank of Japan to expand its asset purchase program. The situation in the emerging markets is mixed. China is boosting growth with a mini-stimulus program centered on rail and housing investment, but their residential real estate market is weak. India has elected a new government which should boost growth over time. The same goes for Indonesia's new president. Mexico is allowing private investment in its energy sector the first time since 1938. This should give a significant boost to foreign direct investment and energy production over the next few years. Sub-Saharan Africa is growing at a 5.5% annual rate, but South Africa is languishing with a 2% growth rate because of ineffective leadership.
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