Friday, 23 December 2011

A little hint of optimism out of the US economy?

The last little while has seen some less-bad (maybe even OK) numbers coming out of the US. Jobless claims are at a 3 year low, suggesting some pick up in job creation is imminent. Housing activity and builder confidence appear to have ticked up (albeit from very depressed levels) hinting that there could be some contribution to growth from housing next year. Wouldn't that be remarkable. Consumer sentiment and spending are off the canvas - not wildly so, but just enough to suggest some pale green shoots of recovery. In addition to all of that, business investment intentions are erring (slightly) on the optimistic side.

With the Fed having set interest rates at near zero for the last 3 years and promising to keep them there for the next 18 months (at least), with massive quantitative easing; with bond yields stunningly low and what could be described as expansionary fiscal settings, it may not be a surprise that some growth is coming through.

A big issue for the early months of 2012 will be the momentum in the US. There remains a massive debt overhang, the desire for fiscal consolidation, depressed asset prices, zombie banks and limited policy flexibility, if needed, to promote growth.

The recent data might just be noise - a temporary uptick along a long run trajectory of weakness. I think it probably is. But he's hoping these pale green shoots of pick up turn in to a substantive recovery in 2012.

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