IMF raises global economic growth forecast to 3.5% from 3.3%

April 17 (Bloomberg) -- The International Monetary Fund raised its global growth forecast, with the U.S. boosting the outlook while recent improvements remain “very fragile.”

The world economy will expand 3.5% this year and 4.1% in 2013, the Washington-based IMF said today in its World Economic Outlook, raising forecasts made in January from 3.3% for 2012 and 4.0% for next year. The U.S. will grow 2.1% this year and 2.4% in 2013, up from 1.8% and 2.2% in the lender’s January projections.

The report reflects the IMF’s view that the euro area, while still facing an economic downturn and the “hard to quantify” potential risk of a country’s default, has stabilized since last year. The euro area economy is projected to decline by 0.3% in 2012, an improvement from the 0.5% in the IMF’s previous forecast. China is projected to grow 8.2% and Japan 2% this year.

“Improved activity in the United States during the second half of 2011 and better policies in the euro area in response to its deepening economic crisis have reduced the threat of a sharp global slowdown,” the IMF said in a summary of the report. “Weak recovery will likely resume in the major advanced economies, and activity is expected to remain relatively solid in most emerging and developing economies. However, the recent improvements are very fragile.”

The IMF’s projections for the U.S. are below the median forecasts of 2.3% growth this year and 2.5% in 2013, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

‘Immediate Concern’

“The most immediate concern is still that further escalation of the euro-area crisis will trigger a much more generalized flight from risk,” the IMF said. “Geopolitical uncertainty could trigger a sharp increase in oil prices.” A 50% increase in the cost of oil would reduce global output by 1.25%, according to the report.

Oil rose yesterday as the reversal date for the Seaway crude pipeline was moved up, causing the spread between New York-traded futures and Brent in London to narrow. Crude for May delivery gained 10 cents to settle at $102.93 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices are up 4.1% this year.

As Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank governors prepare to meet this week in Washington, the IMF warned that policy makers in Europe “must prevent disorderly and destructive deleveraging of the banking system and to promote an adequate flow of credit to the private sector.”

Advanced Economies

Advanced economies, which include the U.S., the euro area, Japan, the U.K. and Canada, will grow 1.4% this year and 2% in 2013, the IMF said. Those are up from 1.2% and 1.9% in the January forecasts. So-called emerging and developing economies will expand by 5.7% in 2012 and 6% next year, up from earlier projections of 5.5% and 5.9 percent.

The IMF forecast a 1.8% economic contraction in Spain, worse than the 1.6 decline the lender projected in January, according to the report. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said yesterday that the country must slash its budget deficit to maintain access to financing, as bond yields rose to the highest level since his government came to power four months ago.

Italy, where Prime Minister Mario Monti is trying to revamp labor markets to make the economy more competitive, is forecast to contract 1.9% this year, better than the 2.1% slump the IMF had projected in January, the IMF said today.

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