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Trading foreign exchange on margin carries a high level of risk, and may not be suitable for all investors. Before deciding to trade foreign exchange you should carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite. You could sustain a loss of some or all of your initial investment and should not invest money that you cannot afford to lose. Trading foreign exchange on margin carries a high level of risk, and may not be suitable for all investors. Before deciding to trade foreign exchange you should carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite. You could sustain a loss of some or all of your initial investment and should not invest money that you cannot afford to lose.

Top 10 largest economies in the world

Gross domestic product – ‘GDP’ for short – indicates the size and health of a country’s economy. Here, we discuss the top 10 biggest economies in the world and explain how you can gain exposure to them via trading.

World flags Source: Bloomberg
World’s largest economies

United States of America (GDP: $21.48 trillion)

Despite facing challenges over the past few decades, such as the Iraq war, domestic terrorism and devastating natural disasters, the US still has the largest economy in the world. It has a nominal GDP of $21.48 trillion and a GDP per capita of more than $65,000.2 In fact, the United States has been the biggest economy since the late 19th century.

The already substantial economy is expected to grow by 2.5% in 2019 and a further 1.7% in 2020.3 However, this growth outlook seems to be on the downward trajectory due to rate hikes, trade wars and debt. Since the recession of 2008, the US debt-to-GDP ratio has increased significantly and is currently no less than 107.8%.4

The top contributor to the US economy is its services sector, which includes healthcare, technology and retail. The services sector is responsible for 80% of GDP, and the rest is divided among industry and agriculture.5

China (GDP: $14.17 trillion)

China, though the second-largest economy in the world, is still considered an emerging market economy. It has experienced somewhat of an economic slowdown over the last decade due to mounting financial risks, including low private consumption and the weakening of the trade relationship with the US. Further, the US-China trade war has caused a lot of tension.

Nevertheless, the Chinese economy is $14.17 trillion strong, and it’s expected to grow by a healthy 6.3% in 2019 and 6.1% in 2020.3 The GDP per capita is $10,100.2 At the rate that it’s growing, China could have a $58.5 trillion economy by 2050.6 The services sector contributes more than 51.6% to the country’s GDP, followed by industry at 40.5%.7

Relatively low government debt of 53.9% puts the country in a favorable position compared to some other countries on the list.4 However, its debt rose by $800 billion in the second quarter of 2018,8 which could mean that China may have a bigger problem on its hands than its trade wars.

Japan (GDP: $5.22 trillion)

Tech and electronic giant Japan has the third largest economy in the world. It was the second largest until it was overtaken by China in 2010. Japan’s $5.22 trillion nominal GDP is expected to grow by roughly 1.1% in 2019 and only 0.6% in 2020.3 Its GDP per capita is closing in on the US at $41,420.2 On the other hand, the country has experienced a degree of economic slowdown since the 2008 financial crisis, and it has a government debt level of 236.6% – currently the highest in the world.4

Japan is the world’s biggest manufacturing and export base. Other industries that stimulate economic activity include agriculture, tourism and services.

Germany (GDP: $4.12 trillion)

Germany has a nominal GDP of $4.12 trillion and a GDP per capita of $49,690.2 For many years, the country has been at the forefront of economic freedom through solid employment levels and its openness to global trade. The German economy is reported to increase by 1.8% in 2019 and 1.6% in 2020.3 As far as national debt levels go, Germany’s ratio is 56% and some expect the economy to slow down and debt levels to rise.4 This comes after the country narrowly escaped a recession in 2018 resulting in weak spots in the economy.

The services sector is responsible for 68.6% of Germany’s GDP, while industry accounts for 30.7% and agriculture less than 1%.9

India (GDP $2.96 trillion)

India is the third-largest emerging economy and the fifth-largest economy in the world. A 7.4% growth forecast is predicted for India’s nominal GDP of $2.96 trillion in 2019 and another 7.4% for 2020.3 India’s current GDP per capita is $2190,2 while its gross governmental debt level is 68.1%.4 The main industry in India is services, which accounts for 61.5% of GDP.10

Though India is still an emerging market economy, it has had major fiscal wins over the last few decades. For example, the prosperity of its 1.3 billion-strong population has largely increased, with poverty levels falling by more than half from 1993 to 2011.

France (GDP: $2.84 trillion)

With a nominal GDP of $2.84 trillion, France is the sixth-largest economy in the world. The 2008 financial crisis didn’t hit France as hard as some other countries, partly because of its low reliance on external trade. Financials only took somewhat of a knock in 2009 but, unfortunately, recovery has been quite slow despite high levels of spending. The current GDP per capita is 43,500%,2 while the debt-to-GDP ratio is 96.5%.4

As is the case with most other nations, France’s services sector has the biggest impact on the GDP with a 78.8% contribution.11

United Kingdom (GDP: $2.81 trillion)

The United Kingdom (UK) has a highly developed economy with a GDP of $2.81 trillion, a GDP per capita of $42,000,2 as well as a general government debt ratio of 87.2%.4 In recent years, the price impact of Brexit has caused a weaker economy, which could lead to new trade barriers. Continued depreciation of the pound has meant price increases for consumers and lower export rates for the country. Still, the United Kingdom’s economy is predicted to increase by at least 1.4% in 2019 and 1.5% in 2020.3

Though Britain has a large energy sector, the services sector is the biggest contributor (79.2%) to the GDP, followed by industry with 20.2%.12

Italy (GDP: $2.11 trillion)

The Italian economy found itself in a technical recession at the end of the fourth quarter of 2018, with an overwhelming government debt level of 128.7%.4 The country is blaming dwindling domestic demand for the recession. But, despite recent economic meltdowns, Italy’s GDP is $2.11 trillion strong with a GDP per capita of $34,780.2 Growth forecasts are at 1.1% for 2019 and 1.0% for 2020.3 On the plus side, the unemployment rate dropped to a new low of 10.3% in December 2018.13

Italy’s biggest sectors include vehicle production, textiles, tourism and machinery. However, the services sector is the biggest, contributing 73.9% towards nominal GDP.14

Brazil (GDP: $1.93 trillion)

Brazil is the largest economy in South America and ranked ninth largest in the world by GDP, which measures at $1.93 trillion nominally and at $9160 per capita.2 Until 2010, economic growth was strong, but in the last few years there have been causes for concern over the country’s economic future. Problems have included the conviction of a former president in 2016, and sanctions against some of its leading companies.

Brazil’s economy is still expected to see growth of 2.3% in 2019 and 2.5% in 2020.3 As far as governmental debt goes, the country is nearing 100% with a figure of 90.2%.4 The services sector is responsible for 58.5% of Brazil’s GDP contribution, while industry accounts for 32.1%.15

Canada (GDP: $1.82 trillion)

Canada has large reserves of crude oil and natural gas, making it one of the most abundant developed countries in the world. It has a nominal GDP of $1.82 trillion ($48,600 per capita)2 and a government debt level of 84.7%.4 GDP is expected to rise by 2.0% in 2019 and 1.6% in 2020.3 There are three major sectors in Canada – the services sector, manufacturing sector and natural resource sector. The largest contributor to GDP is the services sector, which accounts for 70.2% of GDP.16

How to trade the world’s largest economies

With IG, you can trade over 80 forex pairs, including GBP/USD and EUR/JPY.

The world’s 10 biggest economies in summary

Gross domestic product (GDP)1 GDP per capita2 Expected growth 2019-20203 Government debt level4
USA $21.48 trillion $65,000 2.5%-1.7% 107.8%
China $14.17 trillion $10,100 6.3%-6.1% 53.9%
Japan $5.22 trillion $41,420 1.1%-0.6% 236.6%
Germany $4.12 trillion $49.690 1.8%-1.6% 56%
India $2.96 trillion $2190 7.4%-7.4% 68.1%
France $2.84 trillion $43,500 1.7%-1.6% 96.5%
UK $2.81 trillion $42,000 1.4%-1.5% 87.2%
Italy $2.11 trillion $34,780 1.1%-1.0% 128.7%
Brazil $1.93 trillion $9160 2.3%-2.5% 90.2%
Canada $1.82 trillion $48,600 2.0%-1.6% 84.7%

  1. IMF, 2019
  2. IMF, 2019
  3. Focus Economics, 2018
  4. IMF, 2019
  5. CIA Factbook, 2017
  6. PWC, 2016
  7. CIA Factbook, 2017
  8. Reuters, 2018
  9. CIA Factbook, 2016
  10. CIA Factbook, 2017
  11. CIA Factbook, 2017
  12. CIA Factbook, 2017
  13. Istat, 2018
  14. CIA Factbook, 2017
  15. CIA Factbook, 2017
  16. CIA Factbook, 2017

This information has been prepared by IG, a trading name of IG US LLC. This material does not contain a record of our trading prices, or an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instrument. You should not treat any opinion expressed in this material as a specific inducement to make any investment or follow any strategy, but only as an expression of opinion. This material does not consider your investment objectives, financial situation or needs and is not intended as recommendations appropriate for you. No representation or warranty is given as to the accuracy or completeness of the above information. IG accepts no responsibility for any use that may be made of these comments and for any consequences that result. See our Summary Conflicts Policy, available on our website.

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