Belfast Telegraph

Developed countries 'pulling out of economic downturn'

By Russell Lynch

Developed nations are pulling out of the economic slide seen at the end of 2011, according to new data based on hundreds of millions of financial transactions.

Swift, which acts at the platform for more than 10,000 financial institutions and businesses in 210 countries, began producing forecasts for the 34 mainly Western members of the Paris-based OECD think-tank last year.

Its latest figures point to a recovery of the OECD economies in the first quarter of 2012, with 0.5% growth pencilled in for the current quarter and a 0.6% expansion predicted for the second quarter of 2012.

The organisation said: "This would indicate that after the slowdown of Q4 2011, there is moderate expansion taking place in the OECD countries."

Swift does not produce data for individual countries, but recovering momentum for the OECD zone is likely to hide vastly differing performances between members.

The eurozone is heading into a double-dip recession in the current quarter as the region's strugglers sink into a deep slump, while even the region's economic powerhouses, France and Germany, are suffering from stalling growth.

The US economy is performing far more strongly, although the UK economy shrank by 0.2% in the final three months of last year.

At a Federal Reserve conference in Washington at the weekend concerns were raised by central bankers about the downside risks of keeping interest rates at a historic low just to strengthen the global recovery.

Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa said: "If low interest rates induce investment projects that are only profitable at such interest-rate levels, this could have an adverse impact on productivity and growth potential."

Meanwhile, the turmoil sparked by the eurozone debt crisis has caused a 14% fall in the number of takeovers and mergers in the UK, a report revealed today.

The declining number of deals in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the previous three months was driven by fears over the future of the eurozone as Greece threatened default, Ernst -amp; Young's M-amp;A Tracker said.

The same trend was echoed on a global scale, with the number of deals down 24%.

However, in the UK, a 41% rise in the average size of the deals to $264m (£167m) meant their total value rose 20%.