I am in Washington, D.C. It is chilly and cold here. But there is a warm glow on the faces of the businesspeople I am meeting. There is an extra bounce in the attitude since I was here last year.
Whether it is the expectations of spring or whether it is business optimism, there is a definite change in attitude here.
If you remember a year and half ago, there was a lot of talks about “green shoots.”
For those who missed the series of discussions, the economy had been falling for two straight years and people were beginning to lose hope. Just as we stopped falling, the optimists came out with green shoots as a term for seeing growth opportunities around the economy.
The debate de jour was whether we would have a V-shaped recovery, a double dip, a W-shaped slide and many such alphabetical combinations.
The truth is no one knew then, and no one knows for a certainty now. And yet I sense this palpable feeling that this time, nearly 4 years into the slowdown, we are seeing a consistent pattern of recovery. While this reality wasn’t predicted, people are getting used to seeing a new America and accepting the change.
The new reality deals with housing not roaring back again. The new reality deals with Asia leading the charge, not the United States. The new reality deals with the U.S. dollar not being the king but losing ground to others. While it isn’t out, it is certainly wounded deeply. The new reality deals with elevated levels of unemployment being the new normal.
What this tells me is that we are finally accepting the reality of the grim situation rather than hyperventilating and freaking out about it.
Now that this acceptance is setting in, it will be time to begin reconstruction.
I found an interesting parallel to my views in the tragedy in Japan. Throughout the entire ordeal (and it isn’t over yet) I didn’t see any looting. I didn’t see excessive show of emotions and frustration. I saw a calm acceptance of the reality, a measured response from the government, a sense of respect among the sufferers and a sense of sharing of grief and the limited rations they have. No hoarding but courteously leaving items on shelves for others too. Now that, my dear reader, is a clear sign of a mature culture at peace with itself.
Coming back to business, the new found sense of optimism (I wouldn’t go as far out as calling it confidence) is certainly percolating across the globe. The U.S. growth rate of around 2.5 percent GDP, the Europeans stumbling but not collapsing, the Australians continuing to grow despite the devastating floods are all great news for our Asian investments.
China and India have felt a hiccup in the past few months. Hot investment flows reversed dramatically. But that has begun to change. Dalal Street (India’s Wall Street) has begun humming back to business again. The Indian rupee has shot to new heights and continues to look strong. And some of the other smaller names like Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong are beginning to surge again.
All in all, the green shoots in America are beginning to germinate in Asia. Last time, the people were premature in calling an end to the collapse. This time, I don’t sense the wilting that we had seen before.
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