By Peter Thal Larsen and Robyn Mak
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.
At the beginning of 2014, many people were optimistic about the world economy. For the fifth straight year, it had seemed safe to declare the lingering effects of the 2008 financial crisis over and done with. This time is different: 2015 is likely to begin in a merited atmosphere of gloom.
The Central Bank of Russia was successful for about two hours. Its overnight decision to hike the main interest rate from 10.5 percent to 17 percent initially shocked markets enough to arrest the rouble’s fall after the currency sank almost 12 percent on Dec. 15. But the Russian currency quickly resumed its slide, smashing record lows – as if the central bank hadn’t moved at all. That leaves policymakers with few sensible short-term options. Further out, only an end to the Ukrainian stand-off and related Western sanctions or sharply higher oil prices could soothe markets. Neither is likely to happen soon.
Is the good life possible without economic growth?
Merely raising the question challenges the conventional contemporary wisdom that a society’s prime goal should be to boost its income continually. But it is one that the West, especially Western Europe, may have to confront. Europe is not just suffering the after-effects of a nasty cyclical downturn, it has probably entered an era of low growth.
Brazil's newly-re-elected government is set to announce on Friday that the recession that began at the start of 2014 is now over. But a minefield of risks surrounding Latin America's largest economy recommends caution before celebration.