January 21, 2013

Roubini: Five Economic Risks for 2013

Expect ‘multi-speed recovery,’ ‘painful deleveraging’

(Photo: AP) (Photo: AP)

2013 will look very much like 2012, Nouriel Roubini wrote in an article for Project Syndicate on Monday. Global growth will average about 3%, he wrote, but he expects a “multi-speed recovery” with near-trend growth rates of 5% in emerging markets and much lower, below-trend rates of 1% in developed economies.

Unlike last year, however, Roubini expects “painful deleveraging” in most developed economies, and he predicts austerity will spread from the eurozone. “Given synchronized fiscal retrenchment in most advanced economies, another year of mediocre growth could give way to outright contraction in some countries,” he wrote.

Indeed, most major economies have already engaged in some kind of quantitative easing: the European Central Bank, the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the Swiss National Bank, with the Bank of Japan likely to follow. It was these banks’ “unconventional” monetary policies that led to growth in risky assets in the latter half of 2012, not improved fundamentals, Roubini wrote.

Roubini outlined five major risks investors face in the coming months.

fiscal cliffFirst, the stress of the fiscal cliff is not gone forever. Roubini noted that “sooner or later, another ugly fight will take place on the debt ceiling, the delayed sequester of spending, and a congressional ‘continuing spending resolution.’”

Secondly, efforts to reduce risk in Europe haven’t eradicated all of the region’s problems. Stagnation and recession are the “norm” in Europe, Roubini wrote, and now there are large stocks of public and private debt.

The third risk is in China. That country has had to implement another round of monetary, fiscal and credit stimulus to support its unsustainable, export-focused growth model. He predicted the drag in real estate, infrastructure and industrial capacity investments will accelerate in the second half of the year, and the country’s new leadership is unlikely to help.

Fourth, while Roubini predicted near-trend growth rates in emerging markets, many are suffering decelerated growth. He pointed to a heavy influence from the state as the cause. “Their ‘state capitalism’—a large role for state-owned companies; an even larger role for state-owned banks; resource nationalism; import-substitution industrialization; and financial protectionism and controls on foreign direct investment—is the heart of the problem,” he wrote.

A protest in Egypt (Photo: AP)Fifth, more generally, but no less serious, are geopolitical risks. The entire Middle East is socially, economically and politically unstable, he wrote, with the United States and Israel at risk for conflict with Iran, which could have a detrimental effect on oil. “The fear premium in oil markets may significantly rise and increase oil prices by 20%," Roubini wrote, "leading to negative growth effects in the US, Europe, Japan, China, India and all other advanced economies and emerging markets that are net oil importers.”

Any one of these risks could initiate a global recession, and even if they don’t “emerge in the most extreme way,” they will appear in some form if they haven’t already, according to Roubini.

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