This dissonance is dangerous. If populist politicians win credit for a more buoyant economy, their policies will gain credence, with potentially devastating effects. As a long-awaited upswing lifts spirits and spreads confidence, the big question is: what lies behind it?
The past decade has been marked by false dawns, in which optimism at the start of a year has been undone—whether by the euro crisis, wobbles in emerging markets, the collapse of the oil price or fears of a meltdown in China. America’s economy has kept growing, but always into a headwind. A year ago, the Federal Reserve had expected to raise interest rates four times in 2016. Global frailties put paid to that.
Now things are different. This week the Fed raised rates for the second time in three months—thanks partly to the vigour of the American economy, but also because of growth everywhere else. Fears about Chinese overcapacity, and of a yuan devaluation, have receded. In February factory-gate inflation was close to a nine-year high. In Japan in the fourth quarter capital expenditure grew at its fastest rate in three years. The euro area has been gathering speed since 2015. The European Commission’s economic-sentiment index is at its highest since 2011; euro-zone unemployment is at its lowest since 2009.
The bellwethers of global activity look sprightly, too. In February South Korea, a proxy for world trade, notched up export growth above 20%. Taiwanese manufacturers have posted 12 consecutive months of expansion. Even in places inured to recession the worst is over. The Brazilian economy has been shrinking for eight quarters but, with inflation expectations tamed, interest rates are now falling. Brazil and Russia are likely to add to global GDP this year, not subtract from it. The Institute of International Finance reckons that in January the developing world hit its fastest monthly rate of growth since 2011.
全球经济活动的风向标看起来也很有活力。作为全球贸易的风向标，韩国2月出口增长超过20%。台湾制造企业已经连续12个月扩大生产。即便是深陷衰退的地方，最坏的境况也已过去。巴西和俄罗斯有望为今年全球GDP增长做出贡献，而不再是拖后腿。据国际金融研究所（The Institute of International Finance）估算，1月发展中国家的月增长率已达2011年来的最快水平。
This is not to say the world economy is back to normal. Oil prices fell by 10% in the week to March 15th on renewed fears of oversupply; a sustained fall would hurt the economies of producers more than it would benefit consumers. China’s build-up of debt is of enduring concern. Productivity growth in the rich world remains weak. Outside America, wages are still growing slowly. And in America, surging business confidence has yet to translate into surging investment.