Does anyone else see the irony in the ongoing panic in global asset markets? Last week we feared global imbalances; this week we fear they may dissipate.
Don’t get me wrong — the last thing I want to see is global rebalancing by way of a massive US recession. But why are investors from Hong Kong to Frankfurt getting spooked? They are signaling that they don’t think their economies are decoupled from ours, and that a US downturn means the global buyer of last resort is putting away his credit cards. The US will cease to be the bottomless export market, and sellers everywhere will stumble.
Maybe so, but drastically curtailing the US import habit is a necessary part of rebalancing; it is not possible for US exports alone to do the job. So the contagion we’re seeing demonstrates that the current imbalances have become addictive on all sides. (OK, rebalancing via recession lacks a terms of trade sweetener, but is that what the markets are freaking about?)