The rise of populism shows we are increasingly in a 'geopolitical recession,' Studzinski says

  • Studzinski said the personalities behind President Donald Trump's election victory, the Brexit referendum and the rise of President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil were geopolitical variables that are now "much harder to evaluate."
  • His comments come at a time when market participants are increasingly concerned about a serious economic slowdown, with a long-running global trade war souring business and consumer sentiment.

Financial markets must start to account for the personalities of populist world leaders, according to veteran investment banker and philanthropist John Studzinski.

His comments come at a time when market participants are increasingly concerned about a serious economic slowdown, with a long-running global trade war souring business and consumer sentiment.

"One of (the) things we didn't anticipate last year is we are increasingly in a geopolitical recession and we have spent the last 10 years very focused on the quantitative aspects of growth," John Studzinski, managing director and vice chairman of Pimco, told CNBC at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Tuesday.

"Now we have got to deal with the personality aspects of growth," he added.

Uncertainty having a 'real impact'

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro became the latest populist leader to take office at the start of the year, after securing a sweeping electoral victory in late October. Campaigning on a nationalist agenda, the right-wing political leader follows President Donald Trump and Mexico's Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in the growing club of populist leaders in the Americas.

Studzinski said the personalities behind President Donald Trump's election victory, the Brexit referendum and the rise of President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil were geopolitical variables that are now "much harder to evaluate."

Jair Bolsonaro, far-right lawmaker and presidential candidate for the Social Liberal Party (PSL), gives thumbs up to supporters during the second round of the presidential elections, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on October 28, 2018.
CARL DE SOUZA | AFP | Getty Images
Jair Bolsonaro, far-right lawmaker and presidential candidate for the Social Liberal Party (PSL), gives thumbs up to supporters during the second round of the presidential elections, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on October 28, 2018.

Some of those geopolitical variables were cited by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday, as the Washington-based institute published gloomy global growth forecasts.

"Uncertainty now is having a real impact on the real economy as we have seen," Arancha Gonzalez told CNBC in Davos on Tuesday.

Gonzalez said the absence of global cooperation in upgrading international trade rules in recent months was a prime example of one of the long-term risks to economic growth.