The multi-million unanswered question many long-term investors face as of lately is if U.S. growth will be strong enough to continue on its path of further decoupling from the rest of the world if present growth trends outside of the U.S. don’t reverse in the coming months their continuous downward trends. The problem here is, of course, do all these economies have really the means to do just that. If you ask me, I have my serious doubts.
The next 12 months will in my opinion be dominated by an increasing number or uncertainties or the so-called Known Unknowns, which will without any doubt provoke volatility spikes we haven’t seen for years.
So let’s take a quick look into some of these places that face further growing uncertainties:
(1) There is the ruble crisis for which there is still no end in sight while the Russian economy is sliding into a recessionary situation and where the worst is still to come if the present sanctions against Russia remain in place. Here I’d like to add that long-term investors shouldn’t underestimate the negative fall-out if there comes a full-blown Russian crisis.
(2) We have a stagnating Europe where it is in now since a good 6 years and that's a real quagmire, and which last but not least isn't certainly helped by the worsening Russian crisis, while the eurozone itself, which is probably much more serious than the impact of Russia, is closing in on its own created deflation expectations/sentiment trap, which if it happens (hopefully not), will have disastrous economic, but also political consequences.
(3) The Chinese economy that continues on its slowing growth path and for which the latest Bloomberg monthly estimate for Chinese GDP year-on-year growth marks 6.78 percent while keeping in mind it 5 years ago (early 2010) we still saw a Chinese GDP growth rate of above 12 percent;
(4) Continuous below trend and still slowing growth in most of the important Emerging economies and of which Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy real GDP growth is now expected to grow only by 1 percent in 2015, but up from 0.2 percent this year, while inflation is expected to remain about the some as this year and expected at 6.7 percent according to latest update released by the Canadian Scotiabank who also operates in Brazil;
(5) Japan still remains in technical recession in a poisonous combination with the still unfinished absolutely necessary structural reforms. No, Abenomics doesn’t seem to be able to accomplish that wonder it promised to do with its 3 arrows. Also here there remain too many uncertainties.
(6) Developing collateral damage to e.g. the Canadian oil industry caused by the deteriorating oil prices for which, but that’s my personal time, we haven’t seen the lowest prices yet. But even if oil prices should remain somewhere around the current levels for a prolonged period, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say Canada's economy would face real trouble. Already, Canadian banks have lowered their real GDP forecasts to 1.9 percent in 2015, down from 2.1 percent this year.
In this context I think it’s necessary to quote Saudi oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, who told the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES): “… It is not in the interest of OPEC producers to cut their production, whatever the price is. Whether it goes down to $20, $40, $50, $60, it is irrelevant … We want to tell the world that high efficiency producing countries are the ones that deserve market share. If the price falls, it falls ... Others will be harmed greatly before we feel any pain…”
Yes, it becomes clearer by the day the Saudis are really at war about what they consider as their legitimate global oil market share and they are going to do whatever it takes to achieve that while they have all the necessary financial and technological means to do that. About lasting political means, I have my doubts.
That’s one of the reasons why, when crude oil prices should fall through the $40 per barrel level, which I think it could, I’m still inclined at these or at even lower levels it could become interesting to consider stepping in bit by bit.
All that said and at least for the foreseeable future, in clear English all that is not good news at all for these oil producers like Canada, Norway, Brazil, Russia, etc. and besides all that, lower oil prices certainly won’t restrain the dis-inflationary trends we see further taking hold in a lot of places in the world.
Yes, besides all these uncertainties and threats the U.S. economy really seems, also in part thanks to lower oil prices, to become one of those rare spots in the world in something like an “economic” sun, notwithstanding we also must admit, with some clouds here and there.
Nevertheless, if the favorable development in the U.S. continues there is no doubt in my mind the Fed will start raising interest rates in 2015, which should probably cause a broad based spike in volatility all over the globe. How U.S. and global markets will react to that, remains to be seen.
One thing is for sure, if you are an investor involved in carry trades, never forget, there is always a last one who holds the bag. (Editor’s Note: A carry trade is when you buy a high interest currency against a low interest currency.) Make sure, it isn’t you or you aren’t part of those who are holding the bag … because that could cost you dearly.
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