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Strategies & Market Trends : The Financial Collapse of 2001 Unwinding

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From: elmatador1/30/2023 8:21:06 AM
   of 11653
The world is not ready for the long grind to come

Demographic changes and deglobalisation will keep inflation higher than policymakers were used to pre-pandemic

One in eight people say they plan ‘no return’ to pre-pandemic activities, including work

ELMAT: By the world, the Financial Times means North America and Europe. The rest of the wordl have been grinding along with no'quiet quitting', 'acting your wage' or 'great resignation'.
The rest of the world will take the salaries of these workers the same way it took manufacturing...

Ruchir Sharma YESTERDAY The writer is chair of Rockefeller International

Over the past half century, as governments and central banks teamed up ever more closely to manage economic growth, recessions became fewer and farther between. Often they were shorter and shallower than they might have been. After so much mildness, most people cannot imagine a painfully lasting business cycle. But the global economy is heading into a period unlike any we have seen in decades.

Faith in government as a saviour in recessions has been worming its way into people’s minds for most of their lifetimes. Since 1980, the US economy has spent only 10 per cent of the time in a recession, compared with nearly 20 per cent between the end of the second world war in 1945 and 1980, and more than 40 per cent between 1870 and 1945. One increasingly important reason is government rescues. Combined stimulus in the US, the EU, Japan and the UK, including government spending and central bank asset purchases, rose from 1 per cent of gross domestic product in the recessions of 1980 and 1990 to 3 per cent in 2001, 12 per cent in 2008 and a staggering 35 per cent in 2020.

Though the 2020 recession was sharp, it was the shortest since records begin, lasting just two months. Government bailouts in the pandemic came so fast and large that it felt to many people, particularly white-collar employees working from home, as if the recession never happened. Their incomes and credit scores went up. Their wealth exploded with rising stock and bond markets. Now this experience of recession as a non-event seems baked into the professional psyche.

Some commentators are beginning to say the world economy could be in for a “soft landing”, not an outright recession. In the latest consensus surveys, economists aren’t quite that optimistic. But they continue to expect the mildest recession since the second world war, starting soon and lasting less than six months, as the Federal Reserve again comes to the rescue.

This consensus view may be wrong in key respects, whether on how soon the next recession arrives, how long it lasts or how generous the rescue effort can be.

In 2020, governments injected so much money into the economy that consumers are still sitting on much of it two years on — $1.5tn in the US alone. Investment by US and European business barely broke stride. Governments continue to spend. Because of this, the next downturn may come later than expected, a view bolstered by the latest US GDP data, which showed a resilient economy.

When the pandemic stimulus finally runs out by year end, the next downturn, once it comes, may not pass so quickly. The key sticking point is inflation. This is now retreating almost as quickly as it surged last year — as supply chains normalise and “revenge spending”, unleashed by the end of lockdowns and boosted by stimulus, calms down. But it is not likely to return to its pre-pandemic level of under 2 per cent.

The most lasting legacy of Covid may be its impact on work and wage inflation. One in eight people say they plan “no return” to pre-pandemic activities, including work. The number of hours people of all ages want to work plunged, and their attitude has changed as well. Social media celebrates “quiet quitting” and “acting your wage” — meaning do what you are paid for, and no more.

In conversations I hear chief executives saying that they have “pricing power” for the first time in decades. Inflation for goods such as cars is slowing fast, but that for services is stickier. The Fed tracks a special index for “sticky services” like real estate and recreation — in which prices move slowly — and it is rising.

Meanwhile, the world is changing in fundamentally inflationary ways: birth rates have been falling for years but are now rapidly shrinking working-age populations. Countries are retreating inward, offshoring to the nearest and most friendly nations rather than to the least costly.

The pressure from demographics and deglobalisation will push the new normal for inflation higher, closer to 4 than to 2 per cent. This will make it harder for central banks to cut rates to counter the next recession. Higher rates mean governments can borrow and spend heavily to stimulate sluggish economies only at risk of inviting punishment in the global bond markets, which are already much less tolerant of free spending.

While the next downturn may take longer to hit, it is likely to take an unfamiliar shape, possibly not much deeper but more enduring, as stickier inflation forces central banks and government rescue teams to the sidelines. The world is not ready for the long grind ahead.
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