Tuesday, May 24, 2011

You don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun your buddy.

There is an old joke about two hunters who angered a mama bear in the woods and she started chasing after them.  As the two men ran for their lives, one said, "It's hopeless, we can't outrun the bear!" And the other replied, "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you!"

I'm not sure the analogy works for the global economy because we're all kind of chained together, but it does seem that Europe is running from the bear just a bit slower than the USA lately.      
Europe Sinks Markets:  Stocks, Commodities Fall on New Debt Fears; Jitters Over Recovery
Anxieties about Europe's debt problems have been fanned further by an open dispute between the European Central Bank and euro-zone governments about what to do with Greece's large, and growing, debt burden. As well, a negative report on Italy's credit rating and a crushing defeat in weekend elections for Spain's ruling party intensified concerns that Europe's debt problems were entering a new, critical stage.
A European debt crisis wouldn't be a good thing for anyone, but it might pave the way for a stronger American recovery. When the dollar gains in value compared to the Euro, it may become a disadvantage to American firms that export to Europe, but that would be offset by less expensive imported raw materials used in American manufacturing and industry. The increased value of the dollar could lead to lower oil prices which would help fuel further economic recovery as consumers would gain in disposable income. By deteriorating the finances of European firms that compete with American companies, it may weaken their ability to invest in new product development and facility upgrades, the effects of which may not be felt for several years. While the markets tend to spread economic contagions by selling off everywhere based on negativity anywhere, that might not be the best strategy when one particular market is reacting normally to local conditions.

Europe is still struggling with harmonizing the economies and financial policy of diverse nations who are more concerned with the home front than they are with the state of their union. To work, the Euro zone must coordinate financial policy among all the member states. That's easy enough to do when times are good and the cash is flowing, but now that austerity and budget cuts rule the day the Euro infighting is going to make it tougher for them all to agree how to compete against the common enemies, namely the USA and China.

Through mountains of collaborative financed debt, the USA and China are bound together for the long haul and for mutual survival they will do whatever is necessary to keep each other's economies humming along.  If that means standing back watching a Euro debt crisis unfold, that's what they will do.

The USA should not just stand around and wait for the Euros to get up off the ground, dust off and get back in the race.  We should keep running as fast as we can and let the bear catch the slower guy.  That's what people who want to stay alive do.           

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