As President Obama launches into his second term, getting the economy moving remains among his top priorities. It is not the challenge he faced four years ago, when we were just months removed from the near global economic meltdown of September 2008. Rather, it may look very similar to last year: slow growth around the globe. But, according to Nouriel Roubini , there will be some "important differences , " that might lead us to prefer slow growth to the alternative. In a piece for Project Syndicate , Roubini raises concern that, "given synchronized fiscal retrenchment in most advanced economies, another year of mediocre growth could give way to outright contraction in some countries." With growth anemic in most advanced economies, the rally in risky assets that began in the second half of 2012 has not been driven by improved fundamentals, but rather by fresh rounds of unconventional monetary policy. Most major advanced economies’ central banks – the European Central Bank, the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, and the Swiss National Bank – have engaged in some form of quantitative easing, and they are now likely to be joined by the Bank of Japan, which is being pushed toward more unconventional policies by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new government. Moreover, several risks lie ahead. First, America’s mini-deal on taxes has not steered it fully away from the fiscal cliff. Sooner or later, another ugly fight will take place on the debt ceiling, the delayed sequester of spending, and a congressional “continuing spending resolution” (an agreement to allow the government to continue functioning in the absence of an appropriations law). Markets may become spooked by another fiscal cliffhanger. And even the current mini-deal implies a significant amount of drag – about 1.4% of GDP – on an economy that has grown at barely a 2% rate over the last few quarters. Second, while the ECB’s actions have reduced tail risks in the eurozone – a Greek exit and/or loss of market access for Italy and Spain – the monetary union’s fundamental problems have not been resolved. Together with political uncertainty, they will re-emerge with full force in the second half of the year. After all, stagnation and outright recession – exacerbated by front-loaded fiscal austerity, a strong euro, and an ongoing credit crunch – remain Europe’s norm. As a result, large – and potentially unsustainable – stocks of private and public debt remain. Moreover, given aging populations and low productivity growth, potential output is likely to be eroded in the absence of more aggressive structural reforms to boost competitiveness, leaving the private sector no reason to finance chronic current-account deficits. Read The Economic Fundamentals of 2013 here .
Filed under: Japan, contraction, growth, EU, Nouriel Roubini, China, Europe, projections, austerity measures, project syndicate, austerity, downside risks, fiscal retrenchment, drag