Tuesday, 9 June 2020

“Dr. Doom” Predicts Greater Depression of the 2020s

Prof. Roubini (of New York’s Stern School of Business), nicknamed Dr. Doom has predicted there will be some jobs that will never come back after Covid-19. He also warns of an unprecedented recession.

Prof. Roubini foresaw the financial crisis in 2008 before many others did. During the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, it took 3 years for output to fall sharply. This time around it was in 3 weeks. Whether recovery is U-shaped or L-shaped there are 9 risky trends he cites:

i)               Debts and defaults – massive increase in fiscal deficits is unsustainable in the long run. The same goes for households and firms;
ii)              Demographic time bomb in developed economies- aging societies require more health care and social security systems funding;
iii)            Deflation – a massive slack in goods and labour will collapse prices in commodities and industrial metals;
iv)             Currency debasement – permanent negative supply shocks from accelerated deglobalisation will make stagflation inevitable;
v)              Digital disruption – income and wealth gaps will widen; with downward pressure on wages from greater automation;
vi)             De-globalisation – fragmentation is already underway. More restrictions on movement of goods, services, capital, labour, technology, data and information. Already happening in pharmaceutical, medical-equipment and food sectors;
vii)           Economic insecurity- foreigners are scapegoated for the crisis;
viii)          New “Cold War” between U.S. and China, Russia, Iran and North Korea;
ix)             Upsurge in clandestine cyber warfare; and
x)              Environmental disruption – will be more frequent, severe and costly in the future.

These 10 risks threaten to fuel a perfect storm for 2020-2030 and that’s the decade of despair, as he calls it.

Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz predicts the U.S. will have at least 6 months of negative growth. Although he does not go as far as Roubini on longer term trends.

So, what then is a financial depression?

The difference between a recession (two quarters of negative growth) and a depression comes down to depth and severity of the effects. The GFC (or also known as Great Recession) was from December 2007 to June 2009 and unemployment peaked at 10%.

The Great Depression lasted 10 years (1929 to 1939) with unemployment at 25%. The number of unemployed Americans is now over 30 million and could hit 47 million or a 32% unemployment rate. And if this rate stays above 15% to end 2021, then we are into a depression.

Billionaire investor, Ray Dalio shares Roubini’s view of a depression. Global losses would be anywhere between USD 12 trillion to USD 20 trillion. Dalio believes it will take “creativity” and “inventiveness” to rebuild the economy. And more competent leadership may help reduce many of the issues listed above. Hopefully a more inclusive, stable international order may then arise.

The “Goliaths” of the world may seem insurmountable but look to the One who conquered the world, and these will look insignificant because of His presence in you.

1.  Here are the 10 biggest economic challenges we face over the next 10 years, Nouriel Roubini, World Economic Forum, May 1, 2020.
2.     Roy Dalio predicts a coronavirus depression, Tom Huddleston Jr., CNBC, April 9, 2020.
3.     U.S. economy is in a “medically induced coma”, Megan Leonhart CNBC, April 22, 2020.

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