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* World economy to see modest improvement in 2013
* U.S. fiscal cliff, euro zone crisis biggest risks
* World economy to grow 3.4 percent in 2013 -poll
* Europe still biggest drag on world growth
By Andy Bruce
LONDON, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Next year offers only a slightimprovement for a global economy hit by recession in Europe andslowing or moribund growth in Asia and the United States,according to Reuters polls of hundreds economists worldwide.
After reaching 3.1 percent this year, world economic growthis expected to hit 3.4 percent in 2013, polls released onThursday said - a slight cut from July's poll and slower thanthe International Monetary Fund's latest forecasts of 3.3percent and 3.6 percent.
While few expected 2012 would be anything other than adifficult year for the world economy, there had earlier beensome hope a resilient United States and faster-growing emergingmarkets would keep up the momentum.
This view has changed with economists polled over the lastweek saying at least some of the weakness will inevitably spillinto next year.
Much will hinge on whether China, Asia's largest economy,can pull out of its downtrend this year, and if the euro zonecan contain its prolonged debt crisis.
"As we've moved further through 2012, the assumption we'vegenerally worked off - that next year's got to be better thanthis - is fading rapidly," said Victoria Clarke, economist atInvestec in London.
She cited a few big risks for next year, including theprospect of deep automatic spending cuts in the United States,the so-called fiscal cliff, which would immediately crimp ongrowth unless politicians agree a deal to avert it.
"We think they'll find some sort of compromise on that. Butthere are plenty of smaller drags on global growth through nextyear - there's no question the euro crisis is going tocontinue," said Clarke.
Europe is expected to remain the biggest drag on the worldeconomy next year, as its sovereign debt crisis continues tostew.
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The predicted five worst performing economies in 2013, outof the 19 covered in the poll, are all European, with Italybottom of the stack.
And the euro zone economy may have to wait until 2014 beforeit recovers from its decline this year, as few analysts polledby Reuters expect anything other than feeble growth in thequarters ahead.
Only 17 of 71 economists polled said it will grow enoughnext year to cancel out the 0.5 percent decline predicted for2012. The consensus was for 2013 growth of just 0.3 percent nextyear, in line with last month's poll.
The survey suggested recent aggressive action taken by theEuropean Central Bank will not alone be enough to put the eurozone back on a sound economic footing.
Still, easy monetary policy elsewhere in the world shouldhelp foster better growth, without really propelling it.
NEW YEAR HANGOVER
Prospects for the United States, the world's biggesteconomy, have dimmed only slightly for the first part of nextyear, suggesting it will maintain its plodding recovery.
Economists cut their median growth forecast to an annualised1.6 percent for the first quarter of 2013, compared with 1.7percent last month, and to 2.1 percent for the second quarterfrom 2.3 percent.
"I don't think we are going to get significantly slower fromhere but that depends on what happens in fiscal policy towardsthe end of the year," said Jay Bryson, global economist at WellsFargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The poll showed the vast majority of economists - 29 of 31-believe politicians will agree to stop January's automatictrigger of $600 billion of tax hikes and spending cuts.
That would avoid precipitating what the Congressional BudgetOffice has warned could be "a significant recession" and theloss of about 2 million jobs, a scenario already suffered bysome major European economies.
Europe's slump has cast a big shadow over export-reliantAsian economies, which will likely register another year of weakgrowth in 2013.
Forecasts for nearly all of the 12 Asian economies polled inOctober were downgraded from the last quarterly poll conductedin July.
"Next year will probably be quite a difficult year for mostAsian economies," said Vishnu Varthan, economist at MizuhoCorporate Bank.
"A lot of these economies still have their umbilical cordstied to China and whether China eases policy and its magnitudewill probably decide the course of growth in the region."
China is scheduled to publish third-quarter GDP data nextweek, with investors anticipating a seventh straight quarter ofslowing growth.
Still, the likes of India and Indonesia will remain amongthe world's fastest growing major economies next year.
(For poll data click on or ) (For other stories from the poll, click on )
(Polling and repoerting by Reuters bureaux across the globe.Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)
Keywords: ECONOMY POLL/GLOBAL