David Rosenberg Presents A Dozen Economic Threats That Should Keep Bulls Up At Night

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If we could sum up the new conventional wisdom about the markets, it would be like this: The economy is recovering decently, and yet there are big looming systemic threats and headline risks ready to torpedo the comeback at any time.

In recent days, it’s appeared that the headlines are winning out, most notably the European ones.

In his daily note, David Rosenberg clarifies 12 looming issues that could torpedo the recovery.

China is overheating

'China is overheating and more policy tightening will likely be needed. When government officials begin discussing price controls, you know the situation is serious. The bottom line is that conventional Street research is probably way off in the consensus view that the inflation pickup is confined to food. Wages are rising rapidly beyond productivity gains and a huge credit bubble could well burst sometime within the next 1-2 years. There is dramatic excess capacity -- highlighted by the 40%-plus ratio of fixed investment to GDP. So, there is a strong chance that China undergoes a significant, though likely brief, economic adjustment by 2012, which could interrupt, at some point, our secular bullish call on commodities. Just something to consider.'

Source: Gluskin-Sheff

Europe is crumbling

QE is creating uncertainty

A Canadian housing bust

'We remain concerned that Canada experienced some sort of housing bubble in 2009 and into 2010. We are worried about looming default risks but have been pleasantly surprised by the fact that the real estate market has eased, rather than busted. Be that as it may, a more pernicious turndown in real estate values cannot be ruled out, especially if the Bank of Canada follows the market and resumes in its rate-hiking program early next year. As it stands, the Teranet-National Bank House Price Index (HPI) deflated 1.1% in September -- the first decline since the depths of despair in April 2009. Some cause for pause.'

Source: Gluskin-Sheff

A double dip in US housing

Canadian household leverage is worrisome

'Canadian household leverage -- debt ratios are as high as they were in the U.S.A. at the peak in relation to income (the debt/asset ratio for now looks better here). This is a longer-term concern, especially if interest rates were to be raised further in the future. I see this is a very big intermediate-term concern for the consumer spending outlook.'

Source: Gluskin-Sheff

The weak Canadian economy

'Lack of productivity growth in Canada. This is a key source of debate -- but we contend that the U.S. data are overstated and the Canadian data are understated. How can we be a productivity laggard when we have practically the same underlying inflation rate as the U.S.A. with a comparable unemployment rate that is nearly three-percentage points lower.'

Source: Gluskin-Sheff

The Canadian dollar is overvalued

'The Canadian dollar. In our view, it is still overvalued by a nickel even with the recent firming in the commodity complex, though strong international capital inflows are providing a very firm floor under the loonie. That said, the Canadian dollar is impeding growth in the local manufacturing sector and clearly dampening domestic export competitiveness -- Canada's record current account deficit attests to that view.'

Source: Gluskin-Sheff

Major austerity on the state and local level

'The dramatic retrenchment at the state/local government sector south of the border and the negative feedback effects on domestic demand. This is the one critical source of downside risk for the U.S. economy in 2011, which could easily result in 1.5-2.0 percentage points of withdrawal from GDP growth. Outside of the consumer, this is the second largest spender in the U.S. economy. Have a look at The Mortgage Parallel on page 78 of The Economist.'

Source: Gluskin-Sheff

Currency wars...

Military skirmishes in Korea

'The two Koreas as an example but the situation will also test China-U.S. foreign relations as Beijing tells America to butt out. In recent months, China has been making strides to deepen its economic and strategic relationship with North Korea despite American objections.'

Source: Gluskin-Sheff

Economists are still way too optimistic

'It does not seem to me that economists have fully taken into account the drag from the fiscal side of things in the U.S. and in the Euro region. Global GDP consensus has been at 4.2% for several months. Interestingly, the BoC took down their 4% view to 3.5% last month -- so they could be ahead of the pack.'

Source: Gluskin-Sheff

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