Monday, January 11, 2010

A Renewed Boom for 2010?

It now appears that Australia has fully moved on from any notion of crisis and 2010 is now being seen as the year of "the return of the boom".

But there are, as usual for those of us negative vibe merchants (I prefer the notion of "vulnerability watcher"), some things to worry about:

What happens to China's economy will continue to be important. Chinese demand for Australian commodities fell away in late 2009 as David Uren points out in The Australian. "Commodity shipments to China fall as speculative stock build-up eases". But this is not necessarily an indicator of a collapsing market. There has been a lot of speculation and there are ongoing issues of stockpiling and stategic asset buying. (Certainly the Chinese appear to have messed up in the arena of iron ore purchases)

The job for policy-makers is to think about vulnerabilities and not get too carried away with the view that a renewal of a commodities boom is inevitable.

The US economy continues to be mired in recessionville and further stimulus is being contemplated.

2010 will provide some further evidence for the long-running debate over decoupling. The financial crisis bolstered the anti-decoupling case as world financial markets were universally shaken by events in the United States. Since this time, however, the decouplers' argument has looked more sound as some began to talk of a North Atlantic financial crisis rather than a GFC. Certainly, Asia did well in 2009 compared to what many thought lay ahead at the end of 2008. Govt stimulus in China has helped enormously, but even in China this can't go on forever.
No doubt we shall get further evidence about whether China and the rest of Asia is ultimately as export dependent as economists like Stephen Roach contend and whether the issue of final Western demand really does continue to matter.

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