Beijing: If the World Bank is correct, 2012 will see the second slowest year of global economic growth in a decade, at a level consistent with a world recession that, like the 2008/2009 financial crisis, would not spare Asia.
Its sister organisation, the International Monetary Fund, warns that economic expansion in China could be slashed in half this year if Europe's debt debacle worsens, grim news given that China adds more to global growth than any other economy.
And around 600 of the world's best private sector economists polled by Reuters say global growth momentum is disappearing, along with their more robust estimates for Asian expansion.
So why have investors bought emerging Asian equities so enthusiastically that stocks outside of Japan have just had their strongest January showing since 2001 to enjoy one of the 10 most profitable monthly returns in a decade?
"In summary, much of Asia is in a sweet spot right now," Robert Prior-Wandesforde, director of non-Japan Asia economics at Credit Suisse in Singapore, told Reuters. "Survey data clearly indicate that the world trade cycle is taking a turn for the better which is likely to show through in better Asian export and industrial data shortly," he said.
"History suggests that an improving growth and inflation mix is strongly associated with a better market performance. This is exactly what is happening right now," Prior-Wandesforde added.
Sweet spot or not, given the external headwinds emanating from deficient demand in the debt-ridden European Union and still under-spending consumers in the United States, investors certainly appear to believe in Asia's rebounding economic cycle.
Basic materials, energy and industrials were January's top performing sectors, all gaining close to 15 percent according to Thomson Reuters Asia Pacific ex-Japan sector indexes, and continue to be the best bets so far in February.
They've even been joined by technology stocks, one of the most cyclically-senstive sectors in Asia. Defensive non-cyclicals and utilities are the two worst performing of the 10 sectors covered by the indexes. Asia's equity rally doubtless has a valuation driver at work too, especially after 2011's 18 percent fall.
But two thirds of that has been recovered in just seven weeks and foreign buying of Asian stocks in six markets tracked by Nomura has totalled USD 15.4 billion year to date, more than reversing the USD 14.1 billion of stock foreigners sold in 2011.
First Published: Monday, February 13, 2012, 20:42