Skip to comments.Economic `Armageddon' predicted
Posted on 11/23/2004 5:07:35 PM PST by tmp02
Stephen Roach, the chief economist at investment banking giant Morgan Stanley, has a public reputation for being bearish.
But you should hear what he's saying in private.
Roach met select groups of fund managers downtown last week, including a group at Fidelity.
His prediction: America has no better than a 10 percent chance of avoiding economic ``armageddon.''
Press were not allowed into the meetings. But the Herald has obtained a copy of Roach's presentation. A stunned source who was at one meeting said, ``it struck me how extreme he was - much more, it seemed to me, than in public.''
Roach sees a 30 percent chance of a slump soon and a 60 percent chance that ``we'll muddle through for a while and delay the eventual armageddon.''
The chance we'll get through OK: one in 10. Maybe.
In a nutshell, Roach's argument is that America's record trade deficit means the dollar will keep falling. To keep foreigners buying T-bills and prevent a resulting rise in inflation, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will be forced to raise interest rates further and faster than he wants.
The result: U.S. consumers, who are in debt up to their eyeballs, will get pounded.
Less a case of ``Armageddon,'' maybe, than of a ``Perfect Storm.''
Roach marshalled alarming facts to support his argument.
To finance its current account deficit with the rest of the world, he said, America has to import $2.6 billion in cash. Every working day.
That is an amazing 80 percent of the entire world's net savings.
Meanwhile, he notes that household debt is at record levels.
Twenty years ago the total debt of U.S. households was equal to half the size of the economy.
Today the figure is 85 percent.
Nearly half of new mortgage borrowing is at flexible interest rates, leaving borrowers much more vulnerable to rate hikes.
Americans are already spending a record share of disposable income paying their interest bills. And interest rates haven't even risen much yet.
You don't have to ask a Wall Street economist to know this, of course. Watch people wielding their credit cards this Christmas.
Roach's analysis isn't entirely new. But recent events give it extra force.
The dollar is hitting fresh lows against currencies from the yen to the euro.
Its parachute failed to open over the weekend, when a meeting of the world's top finance ministers produced no promise of concerted intervention.
It has farther to fall, especially against Asian currencies, analysts agree.
The Fed chairman was drawn to warn on the dollar, and interest rates, on Friday.
Roach could not be reached for comment yesterday. A source who heard the presentation concluded that a ``spectacular wave of bankruptcies'' is possible.
Smart people downtown agree with much of the analysis. It is undeniable that America is living in a ``debt bubble'' of record proportions.
But they argue there may be an alternative scenario to Roach's. Greenspan might instead deliberately allow the dollar to slump and inflation to rise, whittling away at the value of today's consumer debts in real terms.
Inflation of 7 percent a year halves ``real'' values in a decade.
It may be the only way out of the trap.
Higher interest rates, or higher inflation: Either way, the biggest losers will be long-term lenders at fixed interest rates.
You wouldn't want to hold 30-year Treasuries, which today yield just 4.83 percent.
Doesn't saying doom and gloom stuff have the same effect as the real thing?
You've been here less than two months and accuse another poster of trolling? Not a good idea.
I believe this to be totally true. With the ARMs and other flexible rat equity loans.... I expect to see a lot more high dollar cars in used car lots this coming summer. The following summer I expect to see a big opportunity for foreclosure auctions. Just a gut instinct.
When I see fat toothless drunk guy from the Central Valley cruising a 40,000 dollar rig with a whole group of quads in a trailer with fat toothless drunk wife and butterball candy chopin' kids coming to Pismo.... I know somethin' ain't in correct order in this world... and a correction is in the horizon.
You mean, can a guy like Roach move markets? I don't know. But if you get a bunch of guys like him, they probably can -- at least temporarily. On the other hand, trying to paint a rosey picture can't keep a market or economy from crashing. That's why economics is fascinating, because it's a complex system with tens of thousands of variables.
I remember seeing one of those post doomsday B movies in the late 1970's. The only thing worth value in a post doomsday world is guns, bullets, cans of beans, and stockpile of quality booze and good quality Playboy/Penthouse magazines that can be sold for a good price to the warlord soldiers roaming the collapsed society.
A Boy and His Dog? From a Harlen Ellison short story?
Oil is the main factor. It is at $50 and has a lot more upside and relatively little downside. If oil gets to $100 we will already be in big trouble, and China and Europe in worse trouble.
Let me guess, a blue state type of guy who stopped taking his meds?
I liked the writing, but what is a "quad," "Pismo," and "Central Valley?" Pismo Beach? Central Valley in California? No idea about "quad."
I get tired of listening to these "Analysts".
Look at Lester Thurow. His BS predictions never even came close to coming true. I think that certain economists and analysts are forever behind the times because they act as if current conditions are a permanent thing.
I think it's a tremendously stupid way to do things but look at stock market analysts pathetic "predictions".
Hey Einstein where's the accusation, I was asking.
I had read the same POS on DU about 45 minutes earlier.
Actually, Bush has been after the Chinense to let their currency float. Now it is is pegged to the dollar. This may encourage them to do so.
My guess: a huge drop in home values. People are going to be forced to sell houses at a loss on a mass scale
Soros/terror groups will sucessfully short the dollar till it collapses into a state even the evil Soros crowd did not anticipate
Panic, fear and anger everywhere
Thanks...and for the record, when I lived in the bay area many years ago, I used to like listening to KFAT "...that greasy spot on my dial."
You guys can call all the names you want. Answer this question. How long can this country afford to import 2.6 billion dollars of goods per day. That is 2.6 billion of our wealth leaving the country each day. Roach did not make that number up. Think about that. The ability to control inflation once it takes hold becomes more and more difficult. This time, with 35 to 40 trillion in long term obligations it may be time to consider at least a position of protection. I do not believe it will reach 1929 proportions, but it will exceed the 1987 downturn. I do not care to have 1/2 of my savings and retirement be diluted by the erosive effects of inflation. I will never convince those of you who summarily dismiss those prognostications as nothing, but for those of you who have not shut the door, please try to reason this thing out for yourselves. Do not take my word for it. Look at it logically. Above all protect yourselves from this wave of debt that is rolling over on all of us.
Never ever any nation has spent all the way to prosperity; never ever any nation has devalued it's currency to prosperity.
The thing that bothers me most is how the bar has been raised for the requirements to get a good job. I think it's a result of the exportation of lower end jobs to China and other places.
When I was in high school 10 years ago they all said, "to get a good job you need to graduate high school, and get at least an Associates degree". Well, I graduate high school and get the Associates Degree. Well, now you have to get a BS Degree, and have 200 years experience to get a good job, at least in the computer field.
I despise higher, higher, higher education, because it isn't. I decided to get some certifications instead of a BS Degree. My AS Degree with certifications and experience is better in my opinion, than someone who sat through a lecture from a pinheaded college professor lecturing about the oppression of midgets in India, set against the backdrop of frogs on a rainy day.