Roubini’s Take on the Global Economy’s Ability to Return to Sustained Growth

By Jun 9, 2009, 3:27 PM Author's Blog  

Prof. Nouriel Roubini points out in his latest op-ed, published by the prestigious ‘Project Syndicate‘, that the consensus view for a global economy soon to bottom out has proven again to be ‘overly optimistic.’ Roubini emphasizes in his analyzis the fact that the main issue is not when the global economy will bottom out, but whether the global recovery will be robust or weak over the medium term. He goes on to warn that unless structural weaknesses (explained below) are resolved, “the global economy may grow in 2010-2011, but at an anemic rate.”

Here are a few excerpts from article:

From Project Syndicate: First, employment is still falling sharply in the US and other economies. Indeed, in advanced economies, the unemployment rate will be above 10% by 2010. This will be bad news for consumption and the size of bank losses.

Second, this is a crisis of solvency, not just liquidity, but true deleveraging has not really started, because private losses and debts of households, financial institutions, and even corporations are not being reduced, but rather socialized and put on government balance sheets. Lack of deleveraging will limit the ability of banks to lend, households to spend, and firms to invest.

Third, in countries running current-account deficits, consumers need to cut spending and save much more for many years. Shopped out, savings-less, and debt-burdened consumers have been hit by a wealth shock (falling home prices and stock markets), rising debt-service ratios, and falling incomes and employment.

Fourth, the financial system – despite the policy backstop – is severely damaged. Most of the shadow banking system has disappeared, and traditional commercial banks are saddled with trillions of dollars in expected losses on loans and securities while still being seriously undercapitalized. So the credit crunch will not ease quickly.

Fifth, weak profitability, owing to high debts and default risk, low economic – and thus revenue – growth, and persistent deflationary pressure on companies’ margins, will continue to constrain firms’ willingness to produce, hire workers, and invest.

Sixth, rising government debt ratios will eventually lead to increases in real interest rates that may crowd out private spending and even lead to sovereign refinancing risk.

Seventh, monetization of fiscal deficits is not inflationary in the short run, whereas slack product and labor markets imply massive deflationary forces. But if central banks don’t find a clear exit strategy from policies that double or triple the monetary base, eventually either goods-price inflation or another dangerous asset and credit bubble (or both) will ensue. Some recent rises in the prices of equities, commodities, and other risky assets is clearly liquidity-driven.

Eighth, some emerging-market economies with weaker economic fundamentals may not be able to avoid a severe financial crisis, despite massive IMF support.

Finally, the reduction of global imbalances implies that the current-account deficits of profligate economies (the US and other Anglo-Saxon countries) will narrow the current-account surpluses of over-saving countries (China and other emerging markets, Germany, and Japan). But if domestic demand does not grow fast enough in surplus countries, the resulting lack of global demand relative to supply – or, equivalently, the excess of global savings relative to investment spending – will lead to a weaker recovery in global growth, with most economies growing far more slowly than their potential.

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