Le château de cartes américain

Avoir la preuve que l’on avait raison ne fait pas toujours plaisir. Cela fait plusieurs années que j’affirme que l’économie américaine est soutenue par une bulle immobilière qui a remplacé la bulle boursière des années 1990. Mais aucune bulle ne peut gonfler indéfiniment. Considérant la stagnation des revenus des classes moyennes aux États-Unis, les Américains ne pourront pas payer leur logement toujours plus cher.

Comme l’a dit l’un de mes prédécesseurs au poste de président du Conseil économique du Président des États-Unis : “ce qui ne peut pas durer ne durera pas”. Les économistes, par opposition à ceux qui vivent de la spéculation boursière, ne prétendent pas être capables de prédire quand le jour du Jugement viendra, et encore moins d’identifier l’évènement qui fera tomber le château de cartes. Toutefois, il s’agit de schémas systématiques, dont les conséquences se déroulent graduellement, et douloureusement, avec le temps.

Il faut ici considérer à la fois les grandes lignes et les détails de l’histoire. Les grandes lignes sont simples, mais dramatiques. “Pas d’inquiétude, le problème ne touche que le secteur immobilier” a-t-on pu entendre dire certains lors de l’effondrement du marché des prêts hypothécaires à risques. C’était oublier le rôle clé qu’a joué récemment ce secteur dans l’économie américaine. Les investissements directs dans l’immobilier et l’argent récupéré grâce au refinancement des prêts hypothécaires sur les maisons ont été à l’origine des deux tiers, voire des trois quarts, de la croissance de ces six dernières années.

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