Une reprise fantôme?

NEW YORK – Que nous réserve l’économie des Etats-Unis et du monde? Cette question suscitait l’an dernier une polémique entre deux camps. L’un annonçait que les Etats-Unis auraient à faire face à une récession en V, de courte durée – huit mois, comme les récessions de 1990-1991 et en 2001– et peu profonde, avec un découplage entre la conjoncture mondiale et le ralentissement américain. L’autre camp, dont j’étais, soutenait qu’étant donné les effets de levier excessifs (dans les ménages, les institutions financières et les entreprises), il fallait s’attendre à une récession en U, de longue durée – vouée à durer 24 mois environ – et profonde, sans découplage entre la conjoncture mondiale et le ralentissement américain.

Aujourd’hui, cela fait 20 mois que les Etats-Unis sont plongés dans la récession – une récession devenue mondiale au cours de l’été 2008, avec un vaste recouplage. La thèse de la courbe en V et du découplage est tombée à l’eau. En 60 ans, c’est la pire récession que les Etats-Unis et le monde aient connue. Si, selon toute vraisemblance, les Etats-Unis en sortent à la fin de l’année, on pourra parler d’une récession trois fois plus longue et environ cinq fois plus profonde que les deux précédentes – en termes de repli cumulé de la production.

Le consensus actuel chez les économistes est que la récession est déjà finie, que les Etats-Unis et le monde sont sur le point de renouer avec la croissance et qu’ils ne courent aucun risque de rechute. Malheureusement, ce nouveau consensus pourrait s’avérer tout aussi illusoire que l’a été le scénario des tenants de la courbe en V depuis trois ans.

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