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Soros: Economic Meltdown Ahead — Again

Friday, 27 Jun 2008 11:35 AM

Hedge fund legend George Soros is like the boy who cried wolf, repeatedly predicting financial and economic crisis.

The question is, is he right this time?

In 1987, he wrote a book saying the world had to dump the dollar and replace it with a new currency system to avoid “financial turmoil, beggar-thy-neighbor policies leading to worldwide depression and perhaps even war.”

In a 1998 book, he argued that “the global capitalist system…is coming apart at the seams.”

Now is no different. Soros recently told The Wall Street Journal that we’re headed for a collapse.

“I think that the decline in housing prices is going to be more precipitous and go further than people currently expect,” he says.

“To expect [to come] out of the recession by the end of the year, I find that inconceivable.”

But Soros acknowledges that a variety of outcomes are possible.

“One would be a very prolonged worldwide recession,” he says. “I can’t imagine a replay of the 1930s. But you can have muddle-through replay of the Japanese scenario, 10 years of stagnation.”

Soros points out that some elements of the economy remain strong.

“The employment figures are still very, very satisfactory,” he says. “Part of this is due to the impact of the lower dollar in stimulating exports and partly to the very strong position of the corporate sector.”

Despite the severe credit crisis of the past 10 months, “the economy turned out to be structurally in very good shape,” Soros says.

But Soros maintains in his latest book, “The New Paradigm for Financial Markets,” that a super bubble has arisen in the past 25 years and is now deflating.

“Each time the authorities saved us, that reinforced the belief that markets are self-correcting,” Soros says.

“Each time when you bail out the economy, you need to find a new motor, a new source of credit and a new instrument that allows for the credit expansion. [It’s] difficult to imagine what you can do when you are already lending effectively 100 percent on inflated house prices.”

Soros admits that he fits the profile of the boy who cried wolf. “I did it first [in the 1987 book,] then in [the 1998 book], and now in this book,” he says.

“So it’s three books predicting disaster. [After] the boy cried wolf three times, the wolf really came. If we can sail through this without a recession, then the super bubble story is seriously impacted. I [will] have cried wolf again.”

Soros confesses that he freaks out during market bubbles just like everyone else.

“I’m given to euphoria and despair,” he confesses. “And I would say that I basically have survived by recognizing my mistakes.”

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