Monday, March 17, 2008

The Global Economy looks bad now? But wait there's more

JPMorgan scoops up troubled Bear 4:56am: The deal values Bear Stearns at just $2 a share. Regulators hope purchase will stave off wider chaos in financial markets. more

The Bear Stearns fire sale reveals the iceberg underneath the tip of current disclosed sub-prime losses.

Everyone is talking about it and I have written about it frequently for more than a year. The contagion from the reckless lending of the last 10 years still has time to play out its course.

Emergency rate cuts on Sunday(US time) in the United States and talk of another one on Monday 17, of perhaps 100 basis points, will do little to restore the faith in credit markets, housing, business, the stockmarket and every other sort of financial instrument that is traded, with the possible exceptions of some commodities and minerals.

In New Zealand a story out today shows the high exposure our banks have to our ever decreasing housing market and along with higher government spending promised by the Labour government and a whole host of other price increases, interest rates are clearly going to skyrocket.

Things are looking grim here but in the United States, where it all began, they are suffering worse than anyone else. High house foreclosures, defaults on loans and increasing unemployment are front page stories. One doesn't have to be Warren Buffett to figure out that America is already in recession. The official confirmation of two consecutive quarters of GDP stagnation will only be a matter of course when it is announced.

The real question is, how bad is it going to get in the US and how much is it going to affect us in New Zealand and other parts of the world?

I'm not an expert in global economics but do have a keen economic grounding and I think things in the US are going to get alot worse. We still haven't seen the full extent of losses that banks and other financial institutions have been hit with, and those losses will have to be accounted for somewhere in the US economy.

The selling of Bear Sterns to JP Morgan Chase for $2 a share is a good indicator of more financial institutions sitting on bigger than disclosed losses. The balance sheet of BS, who incidentally survived the Great Depression, must be grim indeed.

The impact on other countries is going to be felt more than it is now because these things take time to filter down. Of course immediate impacts on currency values, world sharemarkets etc are felt quickly but longer term impacts, like even higher interest rates oil prices and goods and services.

Some economists talk of a "disconnect" of Asian economies from the still dominant US beast but that really isn't probable to me because countries like China, India and Japan still rely on a strong United States to survive. Economic self sufficiency in Asia is still a decade or so away.

A key sign of a loss of faith in the global economy will be seen when the US stockmarket opens in a few hours time.

If another interest rate cut is announced by the Fed and it is a big one, one should expect a rise in the DOW. Having said that, the fact that such a large cut is being proposed will probably mean the market will rightly look at this scenario as a good reason to dump their shares.

The uncertainty will have investors hitting the sell button.

The feeling I have in this part of the world is that investors have already started to panic. The New Zealand market was down by 2% and Australia followed with a 2.5% drop. Asian markets, as usual in times of turmoil, were hit harder. Over a broad range of markets in Asia they were down around 4% on average.

Whatever happens to the global economy in the coming days, weeks, and months, you can be sure it will be volatile, fraught with emotional writing from people like me and bad for the back pocket.

It will however, be very interesting.


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Related Amazon Reading

Bailout: What the Rescue of Bear Stearns and the Credit Crisis Mean for Your Investments

Bailout: What the Rescue of Bear Stearns and the Credit Crisis Mean for Your Investments by John Waggoner
Buy new: $13.72 / Used from: $11.46
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c Share Investor 2008 & 2009