January 2015

2014 ended with the “surprising” collapse of oil prices, although there were plenty of warning signals in advance. With the benefit of hindsight, the commodity price boom was just another bubble. It was initiated by substantive changes in the global economy but then carried to unsustainable heights by cheap and abundant money. Now as 2015 commences, bond yields around the world are in free fall and worries of potential deflation abound. Of course, the two sets of developments are related and are the inevitable result of monumental global adoption of market-driven economic systems and by aggressive use of policy to try to tame the extremes of market-driven systems. This has led to an explosion in aggregate global supply that has not been matched entirely by a commensurate expansion in global aggregate demand. Such a mismatch inevitably leads to intense deflationary pressures. In marked contrast with global developments, the U.S. economy seems to be doing just fine and is gaining economic momentum. Bill Longbrake focuses this month’s commentary on developments in the U.S., which for the most part are favorable. Nonetheless, the U.S. outlook is not free altogether from risk and one needs to be careful not to be dismissive of troublesome international developments or their potential consequences.

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