International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde says the global economy is facing "the risk of a new mediocre, where growth is low and uneven."
Lagarde offered her assessment of the world's economic fortunes to international financial leaders at the annual IMF and World Bank meetings Thursday in Washington. The two agencies often lend billions of dollars to troubled countries to help them resolve their financial shortcomings.
The IMF this week said global economic expansion is slowing, projecting a 3.3 percent advance this year and 3.8 percent in 2015, both lower than earlier estimates.
Lagarde said the growth is uneven throughout the world, with some countries doing much better than others.
"In the advanced economies, clearly the recovery is driven by the United States and the United Kingdom while the euro area and Japan are lagging behind. In the emerging market economies, you have reasonably strong, although slower growth out of China, better than what we had thought out of India and clearly a major slowdown in countries like Brazil and Russia. So very country specific," she said.
Lagarde said Europe's 18-nation bloc that uses the euro currency -- collectively the world's biggest economy -- is facing the "not insignificant" risk of falling back into a recession, perhaps a 35 to 40 percent chance of a contraction.
"We are not suggesting that the zone is heading toward recession, but we are saying that there is a serious risk of that [happening] if nothing is done," said Lagarde.
She said if the eurozone's economically stronger and weaker countries adopt appropriate policies, a new European recession can be avoided, but did not offer any recommendations.
Lagarde said the IMF is projecting very limited eurozone growth this year, just eight-tenths of a percent, and a 1.1 percent advance in 2015.