The economies of United States and other industrial nations are "stalled" in mid-1982 and face further discouragingly slow growth and high unemployment, the International Monetary Fund said yesterday in a generally pessimistic annual report.
Despite the "increasing social and political strains" associated with the growing jobless rolls, the lending agency counseled that "premature" efforts by governments to expand their troubled economies would result in renewed inflation, producing even more dire conditions.
Produced by the agency's executive directors, the IMF report says that real economic growth in the industrial world this year will be less than 1 percent. A more precise, but as yet unpublished and revised, forecast by the IMF staff indicates that the growth rate will be less than 3/4 of 1 percent.
The report also warns that commercial banks "are becoming more selective in their lending policies" to the point where they may make new loans only to "a few of the largest borrowers" among developing nations.
It suggests, too, that currency exchange rates would be less volatile if the major nations had a better mix of fiscal and monetary policies.
The report's economic analysis shows that 1982 is the third year in a row of virtual stagnation for the western industrial world (the gain was only 1.3 percent in 1980 and 1.2 percent in 1981) compared with a 4 percent-plus average for the previous 15 or 16 years. The IMF staff forecast for 1983 is for a modest improvement to a 2.5 percent growth rate, which will not reduce the ranks of the unemployed.
Even this figure could be reduced if the American recovery is weaker than expected, as Henry Kaufman, the Salomon Bros. economist, forecast last week. The IMF staff's last published forecast is a recessionary minus 1 percent for the U.S. economy this year, with a recovery limited to 1.8 percent next year. Unpublished revisions may have altered those numbers slightly.
By far the biggest setbacks to the industrial nations in the past couple of years have occurred in Europe, which had enjoyed a growth rate of 3.5 percent as recently as 1979. But the second oil shock and high interest rates triggered a European collapse: the rate dropped to 1.5 percent in 1980, and to minus 0.4 percent last year.
The annual report doesn't project a 1983 rate for Europe, but staff assessments see prospects no better than plus 2.5 percent, following 1 to 1.5 percent growth this year.
Worldwide recession has hit the poorer nations even harder, the IMF said. The large group of them that does not possess oil for export had a combined growth rate of only 2.5 percent in 1981, which the IMF said was the lowest in several decades. In recent years, these less developed countries had enjoyed real growth rates of 5 to 6.5 percent.
And the oil-exporting countries, suffering from a combination of oil glut -- which their 1979-80 price jumps helped to create -- and recession, slipped into negative growth rates themselves.
They suffered declines of 2.7 percent in 1980 and 4.6 percent in 1981, and the IMF predicted an even bigger decline this year.
At the peak of the oil boom and the power of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in 1976, these countries had a booming growth rate of 12.3 percent.
Another measure of OPEC's troubles is that the oil-exporting countries' financial surplus--largely gained from the profits on oil sales that exceed the cost of imports--have declined steeply, from $116.4 billion in 1980 to $68.6 billion in 1981 to $25 billion predicted in 1982.
Yet, it appears that the only real beneficiaries of OPEC's new difficulties are the industrial nations, which have swung from a $43.7 billion combined deficit in 1980 to a surplus estimated at $11 billion this year. The developing countries saw their deficits climb from $86.2 billion in 1980 to $99 billlion in 1981, and to $97 billion this year.
The poorer countries probably could not cut their oil imports by as great a percentage as the industrial world, the report suggests. Nor were they able to boost their exports to OPEC. In addition, the poorer nations were hit hard by high interest rates that worsened their debt-servicing problems, by a depression in some commodity prices and by protectionist trade policies.
The emphasis in the IMF report on the dangers of protectionism contrasted with the World Bank's World Development Report last week, which said that except for agricultural products, the free trade system had stayed remarkably well in place.
An IMF spokesman said he could not explain the apparent discrepancy, except that the World Bank analysis had been "retrospective," and the fears expressed in the IMF report were along the lines that the high unemployment now predicted would make protectionism worse.