Sunday, February 15, 2009

What if?

Weekend press coverage of the economy in the UK was decidedly mediocre. One journalist said it was time to consider stocking up with foodstuffs and buying a gun ahead of the breakdown of law and order. In the same paper another writer was saying that small caps would provide superior returns in 2009.

It seems to me that the City has failed to raise its commentary game to address the severity and speed of the proto-recession - there is still far too much standard thinking. I would like to see some fresh thinking about the possible structural market impact of political banana skins that are being thrown out by the current economic downturn and the series of uncoordinated government and half baked responses to it. What would happen to currencies , equities and fixed income markets if one of the following was to play out ?:

What if Israel decides that the US administration is fixated on the economy and ignoring the threat posed by Iran? Will a new government in Jerusalem take the view that Iran is close to developing a workable nuclear warhead and attack Teheran's nuclear facilities? The recent election results seem to have boosted the hawks. Where would oil trade? Would the economic and psychological benefits of the stimulus be choked off leading to a second major leg of the downturn?

The lack of policy response at the weekend G7 meeting in Rome shows that the market state is dead. What will replace the political consensus of the last 60 years in the UK? Socialist safety net, Thatcherite austerity or something new? What does this mean for equities - will higher tax rates of say 60% on income slow corporate growth or will new high margin and strengthened corporate entities emerge to drive market valuations?

What if Ireland defaults (see previous posts)? Will the ECB bail them out or will German voters surprise us all and say no to their government and no to bail outs for the other PIIGS - what would the ECB do then?
Would the Euro survive the withdrawal of its key economy? 49% of Germans want a return of the Deutsche Mark according to the latest polls.

Clearly government austerity is on the cards for the UK. Will the UK be forced into a major reduction of defence spending? If Trident is cancelled will the UK have any justification for retaining a seat on the UN security council?

What if Russian foreign policy continues to trend towards nationalist goals? Will Moscow use the economic crisis to destabilize Ukraine in the belief that gas hungry Germany and Italy will prevent any concerted action against it?

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