Nouriel Roubini is considered one of the greatest minds in the world. In a September 2006 of NY Mag he was asked whether the real estate ride was over, he said, “Not only is it over, it’s going to be a nasty fall. This spring when the economy looked as if it might recover warned that despite an improved economy with rising stock markets, the crisis was not over and new bubbles were on the horizon:
We are just at the next stage. This is where we move from a private to a public debt problem . . . We socialised part of the private losses by bailing out financial institutions and providing fiscal stimulus to avoid the great recession from turning into a depression. But rising public debt is never a free lunch, eventually you have to pay for it.Roubini is now saying that the US and other Western economies are out of weapons and one little bump in the road will throw us into the feared, double-dip recession.
“The US has run out of bullets,” said Nouriel Roubini, professor at New York University, and one of a caste of luminaries with grim forecasts at the annual Ambrosetti conference on Lake Como.
“More quantitative easing (bond purchases) by the Federal Reserve is not going to make any difference. Treasury yields are already down to 2.5pc yet credit spreads are widening again. Monetary policy can boost liquidity but it can’t deal with solvency problems,” he told Europe’s policy elite.
Dr Roubini said the US growth rate was likely to fall below 1pc in the second half of the year, despite the biggest stimulus in history: a cut in interest rates from 5pc to zero, a budget deficit of 10pc of GDP, and $3 trillion to shore up the financial system.
The anaemic pace compares with rates of 4pc-6pc at this stage of recovery in normal post-war recoveries.
In other words, my cousin the bankruptcy attorney is going to have a very good year. Think of it as one of those old war movies when the plane starts running out of gas and slows down, eventually it goes so slow the plane stalls out and crashes
“We have reached stall speed. Any shock at this point can tip you back into recession. With interbank spreads rising, you can get a vicious circle like 2008-2009,” he said, describing a self-feeding process as the real economy and the credit system hurt each other.
“There is a 40pc chance of double-dip recession in the US, and worse in Japan. Even if it is not technically a recession it will feel like it,” he added.
Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson said the the US debt is getting us into trouble:
“The fiscal crisis seems to be out of control. The ‘big crossover’ is approaching when the US spends more on debt service costs than on security, and historically that is the tipping point for any global power,” he said.
Mr Ferguson said the “Chimerica” marriage of recent years is on the rocks. China is no longer willing to fund the US Treasury bond market, cutting its share of holdings from 13pc to 10pc of the total debt stock.
While China must find ways to recycle its trade surplus and hold down the yuan, it is doing this by stockpiling commodities, buying hard assets around the world, or rotating into Asian bonds.
According to Dr Roubini said that the housing market has already started contracting again.
In the US, the fiscal boost has faded, switching to tightening over coming months The lift from the inventory cycle is finished. Capex spending by companies has held up well, but this slowed sharply in July. Housing is already in a double dip. The last support for the US economy is consumption, barely growing at 1pc.
“All we did was kick the can down the road and stole demand from the future,” he said.
Fasten your seat belts folks…from here on in things are going to get ugly.