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Tags: Europe | recession | fiscal | cliff

Global Economy Is in a State of Prolonged Uncertainty

By    |   Tuesday, 20 November 2012 10:07 AM EST

Once again, Europe is back in the headlines. No, it’s not because of Greece, for now at least.

The Eurogroup of finance ministers, which is the entity that performs political control over the euro currency, is meeting in Brussels today to, once again, find some kind of another “bandage” agreement on how to cut Greece’s debt to sustainable levels, and to give it another package of 31 billion euros (about $40 billion) in loans to keep it afloat and within the eurozone. Long-term investors should keep in mind that Europe is well on its way to a Japanese-style lost decade.

For now, Grexit (the term for Greece leaving the eurozone) is not on the table, but since Monday evening, it’s France that hit a pothole.

Only a couple of days after Moody’s Investors Service said the euro sovereign crisis was only in a period of calm while the situation remained fragile, it stripped France of its precious triple-A rating by one notch to Aa1 with outlook remaining negative. This new rating is still seven notches better than Italy and eight notches above Spain.

Of the key factors for the downgrade that caught my attention was the one that says France's exposure to the peripheral eurozone states through its trade links and its banking system is “disproportionately” large. Also a negative for France is the contingent obligations it will have to pay or guarantee to support troubled eurozone sovereigns and banks through the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the facilities put in place by the European Central Bank (ECB).

Unlike the other non-eurozone sovereigns, France does not have access to its central bank, the Banque de France, to finance its debt in the event of a market disruption.

Taking all this into account against the fact the eurozone is continuously moving further into a recession with the worst still to come— as France and Germany are expected to show negative growth of 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, in the fourth quarter, according to Deutsche Bank Research, and the European Commission saying the economy will grow just +0.1 percent in 2013 — chances of another downgrade for France in 2013 are on the upside. Nevertheless, as this latest downgrade was widely expected, the direct impact on the markets should be only very muted.

In the United States, it’s the fiscal cliff situation that gets boatloads of comments at a moment that policymakers are absent in Washington because of their Thanksgiving Day holidays. As a long-term investor, I would certainly not overlook the fact that the Federal Reserve can do practically nothing about the fiscal cliff because it’s the job of the policymakers, period. The fiscal cliff refers to the effect of a series of laws that, if not changed, would result in tax increases, spending cuts and a corresponding reduction in the budget deficit beginning in 2013.

Wells Fargo says going over the fiscal cliff could result in three quarters of negative gross domestic product (GDP) growth and 0 percent growth for the whole of 2013.

We’ll have to wait and see how Congress and the Obama administration will handle and try to avoid that. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that higher taxes and reduced spending would result in a nearly 4 percent reduction in GDP, which would put the United States completely back into recession territory. From my side I am skeptical of Washington reaching a “serious” deal before the fiscal cliff deadline on Dec. 31. Anyway, it ain't over til the fat lady sings.

I’m still convinced long-term investors should not take on risks at all until we get more clarity on various key threats and on where growth is going to come from.

The eurozone should not be expected to grow out of it problems for a long time to come. The fiscal cliff situation in the United States won’t be resolved until it is finally resolved, whenever that is. Global growth expectations are further weakening, and China is doing its best to keep its growth at about 7.5 percent.

Geopolitically speaking we are very close to war in the Middle East, as well from the Israel/Palestine side and from the Turkish/Syrian side. Keep in mind that President Barack Obama said he has not asked Israel to hold off on ground invasion of Gaza. In the mean time, Iran remains on the backburner, but is certainly not going away.

Talking about prolonged uncertainties, this is certainly one of these times.

© 2023 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.

I’m convinced long-term investors should not take on risks at all until we get more clarity on various key threats and on where growth is going to come from.
Tuesday, 20 November 2012 10:07 AM
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