Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Bad policies are not enough to derail the most powerful economic engine the world has ever seen -- the US economy.

Here is where we are headed in 2012:

Higher stocks prices, lower bond prices.

A slowly expanding economy -- roughly 2 percent. Because of the way GDP is measured, the reported numbers will bounce around, but should average about 2 percent for 2012 as a whole.

China will stumble but recover. Bad government policy will be overcome by the hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of ordinary Chinese. China will continue to be on a roll.

Europe will sink further into the abyss. The failure to rationalize sovereign debt problems (meaning the failure to begin some managed default process) will mean negative economic growth in Europe for 2012. At the end of the day, it will turn out that Europe is less important than everyone thinks. Except for very isolated situations, Europe as an economic entity has been moribund for a generation. That situation will only become more obvious in 2012.

Emerging markets will plod along, but if you own emerging market stocks, you'll wish you had bet on the US market by year end (same as 2011).

Growing disparities in the Western economies between the haves and the have nots. But, not what you think. The "haves" in the Western economies are those with "protected" jobs -- public employees, teachers especially, people that work for Universities, heavily regulated industries,companies that are basically the government (Fannie, Freddie, etc.), and elected politicians.

The have-nots in the Western world are those in the bottom half of the income spectrum -- the aged, the young and poorly educated, the minorities. These folks are going to see their situation deteriorate more in 2012, mostly because of the impact of government policies that have built up over the past fifty years.

Inflation will begin to be significantly more visible in 2012, but runaway problems are still a couple of years or more down the road. It will feel good in 2012, but the seeds of future problems will be evident.

So, 2012 will be a plus year and will feel better for the "haves" than 2011.