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Aruba, January 18, 2012 — The World Bank is urging developing nations to start planning for a major slowdown in global growth this year.

In a report released Tuesday, the Washington-based bank lowered its growth forecasts for high-income and low-income countries, saying it expected the world economy to expand an aggregate 2.5 percent in 2012, down from about 2.7 percent in 2011. In its previous estimate, in June, it forecast growth of 3.6 percent in 2012. The bank also warned of the continued threat of a global financial shock “similar in magnitude to the Lehman crisis,” because of the possibility that a major European economy could be shut out of the global debt markets. In that case, the bank estimated the damage to the world’s economic growth would rival the recession of 2008 and 2009.

The largest economy in the world is weakening,” Justin Yifu Lin, the bank’s chief economist, said in an interview, referring to the European Union. “The message for developing countries is to start preparing now.”

The report was issued as forecasters warned of slower growth in the United States. Estimates of the nation’s annual pace of growth reached as high as 4 percent in the final months of 2011. But economists contend the strength came in part from temporary measures, including wholesalers restocking their inventories and consumers saving less and spending more over the holidays.

Economists say they expect many headwinds in early 2012: rising oil prices as the United States and European countries confront Iran; the risk of a tax cut for American wage earners expiring; a strong dollar rendering American exports less competitive; and continued repercussions from the sovereign debt crisis in Europe.

In the report, the biannual Global Economic Prospects, the bank predicted that high-income countries, including the United States, France, Japan and Germany, would grow 1.4 percent in 2012. It forecast a mild contraction of 0.3 percent in the 17 countries that use the euro. Developing countries will grow 5.4 percent, down from a forecast of 6.2 percent in June, the bank said.

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