Global and Regional Economic Outlook 2011
Economics / Global Economy
The problem with making a year long commentary is that things can change which throws off your initial theory. That was the main problem with my forecast as Bernanke decided to launch QE2 amidst criticism from global central banks. This put a floor under the market and lit the fuse for the rally in equities and commodities.
So what happens in 2011 and how does that affect investment portfolios? From my chair looking out over the world here is what I see happening based on current events.
This is the first of three parts. The first will focus on global regional commentary. The second will focus on investment areas and the third will tie the first two together.
Europe will be marked with a growing divergence between the economically strong countries like Germany and France and the PIIGS. As the year progresses expect Spain and Portugal to accept programs similar to Ireland and Greece.
Current chairman Trichet’s term ends on October 31, 2011 and there will likely be an internal tug of war between the PIIGS who would want a dove and Germany and France who will be pushing for a hawk.
In September, Trichet made some criptic comments in a speech saying that the problematic countries need to get their collective houses in order soon or risk being left behind.
Germany’s exports will continue to carry Eurozone growth in 2011. If the Euro begins to decline versus the US Dollar and global currencies we may begin to see inflationary problems as the year goes on with Germany possibly pressing the ECB to removing some excess credit.
This will provide the new ECB President with his first and possibly most important test. Will he be an inflationary hawk with a nod to removing some excess credit measures and attempting to get ahead of the inflationary curve or acquiesce to the PIIGS who will need a time to heal their sovereign balance sheets.
Europe will survive intact helped in part by their current account surpluses.
Inflation will begin to turn its ugly head as 2011 goes on. Right now Asian central banks have begun a tightening cycle aimed at removing excess credit and attempting to stay ahead of the inflationary curve.
Unlike the late 1990’s Asian economies are on a much better footing to fight inflation with significant excess reserves, low debt ratios, and a willingness to move ahead of the inflationary curve.
One significant fly in the ointment is not coming from China but Australia, whose interest rate increases are slowing the Australian economy almost to the point of a recession. The ripples here will likely be limited to Australia and New Zealand.
Japan will continue to muddle along economically. This may upset market participants as many people have bet on some sort of crisis but Japan has continued on this path for more than a decade now. One area which may help economic growth is the Japan-Thailand FTA in which Japan has begun to outsource low end production to Thailand which is then exported to Japan where final assembly and export to the world takes place. Benefits from this FTA should become apparent as the year goes on.
The key for Japan will be a rise in exports combined with lower public spending. While this may continue to hold back economic growth a retraction in the public sector would be good for the Japanese economy long-term.
India and China will lead the rate raising cycle with increases of at least 100 bps expected across the board.
Argentina remains the wild card for South America. South America is undergoing an incredible economic growth story built upon the economies of Brazil, Chile, and Peru.
Central banks across the region will continue on a rate tightening cycle in an attempt to stay ahead of the inflationary curve.
Argentina remains a huge political risk with elections in 2011 with inflation already out of control.
In Canada, a combination of the H.SI implementation and high consumer debt levels will put a cap on the economic recovery. This is very good for the long-term.
Canada is ahead of the Federal Reserve with respect to interest rates. Baby steps are being taken to let the air out of the bubble and it is likely this will continue as 2011 goes on. We will likely see a couple of rate increases as the Bank of Canada would like to normalize interest rates but is very cognizant of the high debt levels and slow economic recovery. The divergent economic policy relative to the United States will continue.
No interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve until mid 2012 at the earliest and more than likely a slow incremental rate increase policy will begin in 2013.
Not until the mortgage resets have made their way through the system will the Federal Reserve entertain the thought of raising interest rates.
There is a tremendous aversion by consumers in the US to leveraging up. If you were foreclosed on and went back to renting it is unlikely that you have 20% for a downpayment after losing a house purchased with no downpayment.
We will continue to see problems and the grey market overhang will continue to depress prices.
There will be isolated pockets for growth but that is more driven by vulture buying.
Economic growth in the US will be higher than this year but lower than 4% with building inflationary pressures in the food and oil markets.
The rush of voters to elect new candidates to Washington has changed the political landscape. Never before has the country experienced a split Congress with a Democratic President.
The question will be how closely will they move to cut spending when a strong proportion of the American public is against cutting Medicare, Social Security, and Defense and how quickly will the public turn on them when the spending is less than expected.
Right now the 2012 Presidential race has yet to kick into gear but as the year goes on the drumbeat from candidates canvassing Iowa will pick up and grab more and more of the headlines.
Expect lots of bluster and backpeddling from the new Congress. Notice how they are already going back on the earmarks promise before taking office. That will be something major to consider for the 2012 election.
Good economic growth will help tax receipts but I do not see any strong impetus to get spending under control. A great way to slow economic growth and help the Federal Reserve put off increasing interest rates (this creates new problem) would be to combine an increase in tax receipts through lower capital gains, dividend, and overseas profit repatriation tax rates with decreased spending. That would show the world that we are taking our budget deficit problem seriously.
If that happened as businesses and employment began to gain traction the government would be creating a drag to ensure we do not grow to fast and let inflation get out of control.
BTW, I am not a Keynesian. The above policy just makes sense to me at this point in time.