25-Jan-2008

Gloom & Doom

Aplenty (registration required):
The US has already entered into a recession and this recession will be much uglier than the mild recessions of 1990-91 and 2001 as a shopped out, saving less and debt burdened consumer is on the ropes and faltering.

The world will not decouple from the US hard landing; there will be significant recoupling and a sharp global economic slowdown. When the US sneezes the rest of the world catches the cold; and today the US will not experience just a simple common cold but rather a protracted and severe case of pneumonia; thus, the real and financial contagion to other economies will be severe.

Whatever the Fed does now is too little too late; the Fed had a wrong diagnosis of the economy and was behind the curve for over a year. The Fed claimed that the housing slump would bottom out a year ago; instead we have the worst housing recession in US history still getting much worse now. The Fed claimed that the subprime would be a niche and contained problem; instead we have had massive contagion to the entire financial system as a credit bubble and excessive debt and leverage occurred throughout the economy and the financial system. The Fed claimed that the housing problems would not spread to the rest of the economy; instead we had had real and financial spillovers and now a fall of most components of aggregate demand: housing, capex spending, commerical real estate investment and now, ominously, private consumption that represents 70% of demand.

The US stock market is now entering in a seriously bearish territory and will fall much more sharply throughout the year as earnings sharply drop in the recession; the Bernanke put and the aggressive Fed easing will not rescue the stock market or the financial markets as a severe recession is unavoidable regardless of what the Fed does. Fed easing cannot resolve severe insolvency problems among consumers, mortgage lenders, home builders, highly leveraged financial institutions and, soon, enough among over indebted corporate firms.

Equity markets around the world are now plunging and will plunge much more as investors are realizing that a severe US recession will lead to a sharp global economic slowdown and a significant fall in profits across the world. In an integrated global economy both economic growth rates and markets are highly correlated.

Many risky assets will face downward pressure in 2008, not just US and global equities: junk bond yield spreads will widen as bankruptcies spread; corporations will default in great number; housing bubbles will pop in many countries and lead to falls in home prices; securitized products - in housing, real estate and otherwise, will experience further massive losses.

Losses in the financial system will be greater than $1 trillion; thus there is a serious risk of a systemic banking and financial crisis. The credit crunch will become much more severe as capital of financial institutions is eroded and reintermediation of financial flows into the banking system occurs.

Udayan Mukherjee a few days ago:
These may be tough days but it may well turn out to be the best buying opportunity of 2008. Do not panic, accumulate slowly, there is still a long bull market ahead of us. Maybe not in the US but in India for sure.

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