The week in review at Credit Writedowns: 2010-03-14

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This past week’s posts marked a turn for me on a few levels. It is apparent that most market reform efforts are mere tweaks of the existing system. I am being to conclude that no meaningful financial reform can occur absent an absolute collapse in the global economy and the financial system. This is quite troubling in the context of policy normalization which is occurring on the fiscal and monetary fronts across the developed world.

On the whole, I believe the U.S. has been in a technical recovery since August and the strength of GDP growth will force the recession dating committee at the NBER to recognize this. However, I continue to be concerned about a number of pitfalls for the global economy including protectionism, the sovereign debt crisis, unemployment in the U.S., strategic default and commercial real estate. Therefore, any renewed economic weakness will be viewed as a separate episode – a double-dip.

I give a double dip about even odds, which is generally more bearish than even Stephen Roach (40%) and Nouriel Roubini (20%). My baseline had been a multi-year recovery because the cyclical agents of recovery (inventory builds, employment, consumer confidence, retail sales growth, etc) are self-reinforcing. My main reason for seeing a double dip has to do with anticipated policy responses which will be less accommodative, as it is driven now by the rising debate over fiscal probity given the sovereign debt crisis.

Debt levels in the developed world would mean any renewed economic weakness risks a debt deflationary scenario. In my view, the underlying economic fundamentals across the developed world are considerably weaker than many believe – and this will be made apparent if policy is normalized too quickly.

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