Monday, March 14, 2011

Crisis Fatigue? Make a list

by Bill McBride on 3/14/2011 11:53:00 AM

Sometimes it helps to make a list of issues and hopefully start to check them off. Unfortunately the list has been getting longer, and some of the downside risks will be with us for some time.

Here is a list - with a few short comments:

Risks from the earthquake in Japan.

Higher oil prices and a possible supply shock.

Although U.S. oil prices have fallen under $100 per barrel this morning, prices are still high and a risk to the economy. As Professor Hamilton noted over the weekend, the recent sharp decline in consumer sentiment is probably tied to the high price of gasoline.

In addition to the events in Libya, Saudi Troops Enter Bahrain to Help Put Down Unrest

U.S. Housing Crisis.

House prices are at new post-bubble lows and still falling.

And there is probably more distressed supply coming with 11.1 million U.S. residential properties with negative equity and about 4.3 million mortgage loans are delinquent or in the foreclosure process.

Although foreclosure activity has slowed - because of foreclosure processing issues - distressed sales are expected to increase again later this year.

The European financial crisis.

Although an agreement was reached late Friday night on the loans to Greece - to extend the term and lower the interest rate - and also to allow the EFSF to intervene in the primary bond market, this just buys more time.

The Greek ten year yield is down to 12.3%. The Irish ten year yield is at 9.4% - even with no interest rate cut for Ireland.

There was some speculation last week that Portugal would request a bailout over the weekend. That didn't happen. Here are the Portuguese 2 year, 5 year and 10 year bond yields from Bloomberg. All are lower today after rising sharply last week.

Here are the Ten Year yields for Spain, and Belgium. Both lower too.

State and local government cutbacks.

Possible Federal government cutbacks (even shutdown).

Although the "debt ceiling" debate is just political grandstanding, you never know what will happen (I doubt the U.S. will default). It sounds like another short term budget deal will be reached, and it is but it is possible that more cuts will be enacted this year - slowing growth in 2011.

Inflation (a two sided coin).

Although I think core inflation will remain below the Fed's target all year, it is possible that inflation could pick up more - or that policymakers will overreact. I think it is likely the Fed will remove the "the measures of underlying inflation have been trending downward" sentence in the FOMC statement tomorrow (see FOMC Preview), but I think we are still a long ways from tighter policy.

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