The Perfect Storm of a Global Recession

NEW YORK – The probability is growing that the global economy – not just the United States – will experience a serious recession. Recent developments suggest that all G7 economies are already in recession or close to tipping into one. Other advanced economies or emerging markets (the rest of the euro zone; New Zealand, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia, and some Southeast European economies) are also nearing a recessionary hard landing. When they reach it, there will be a sharp slowdown in the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) and other emerging markets.

This looming global recession is being fed by several factors: the collapse of housing bubbles in the US, United Kingdom, Spain, Ireland and other euro-zone members; punctured credit bubbles where money and credit was too easy for too long; the severe credit and liquidity crunch following the US mortgage crisis; the negative wealth and investment effects of falling stock markets (already down by more than 20% globally); the global effects via trade links of the recession in the US (which still counts for about 30% of global GDP); the US dollar’s weakness, which reduces American trading partners’ competitiveness; and the stagflationary effects of high oil and commodity prices, which are forcing central banks to increase interest rates to fight inflation at a time when there are severe downside risks to growth and financial stability.

Official data suggest that the US economy entered into a recession in the first quarter of this year. The economy rebounded – in a double-dip, W-shaped recession – in the second quarter, boosted by the temporary effects on consumption of $100 billion in tax rebates. But those effects will fade by late summer.

The UK, Spain, and Ireland are experiencing similar developments, with housing bubbles deflating and excessive consumer debt undercutting retail sales, thus leading to recession. Even in Italy, France, Greece, Portugal, Iceland, and the Baltic states, frothy housing markets are starting to slacken. Small wonder, then, that production, sales, and consumer and business confidence are falling throughout the euro zone.