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World Bank: LatAm economy to grow 1.7% in 2019 after 'weak' 2018 results

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World Bank: LatAm economy to grow 1.7% in 2019 after 'weak' 2018 results

Latin America's economy will expand 1.7% in 2019 after recording "disappointingly weak" growth, estimated at 0.6%, in 2018, the World Bank Group said.

Last year's underwhelming economic results were mainly driven by Argentina's currency crisis, the trucker's strike in Brazil and the deteriorating conditions in Venezuela, according to the World Bank's latest Global Economic Prospects report. A decline in copper prices slowed momentum in Chile and Peru's economies while rising oil prices limited growth in oil importer Central America.

Other factors contributing to the region's weak expansion in 2018 include weaker-than-expected investment recovery and export growth, exchange rate volatilities, tightening external financing conditions and fragile fiscal fundamentals, the World Bank said.

This year's forecast was 0.6 percentage point lower than the World Bank's June 2018 projection. The international body expects the region to continue posting growth of 2.4% in 2020 and 2.5% in 2021, although noting that these improvements "will be weaker than previously expected" due to tightening financial markets and trade policy woes.

Other risks to regional growth include adverse market responses to fiscal conditions and disruptions from natural disasters.

The World Bank cut its 2019 forecasts for Latin America's three major economies, with Argentina's expected GDP growth lowered by 3.5 percentage points to -1.7%, Brazil by 0.3 percentage point to 2.2% and Mexico by 0.5 percentage point to 2.0%.

The international body also warned about the possibility of intraregional and domestic risks, with a larger-than-expected contraction in Argentina possibly spilling over to the region through trade and financial flows. Some countries with exposure to Argentina include Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Panama. Outward migration from Venezuela also has spillover effects for the region, especially in Colombia.

On the other hand, the World Bank expects election-related risks to decrease as elections in major economies were already finished, although it noted that new governments need to implement "challenging policy reforms."

The World Bank expects global economic growth to cool to 2.9% in 2019 from a downwardly revised 3% in 2018.