The U.S. and world economies are about to suffer through some of the worst recessions in the postwar period. Most measures of economic and financial activity look like they fell off a cliff in September and October, and have been deteriorating at an alarming rate ever since. The United States is now officially in a recession that started in December 2007. Japan and many European countries are in the same boat. At the same time, growth in most emerging markets is faltering. IHS Global Insight now believes that global growth will be in the 0.0 – 0.5% range during 2009, compared with 2.7% in 2008.
- THE U.S. RECESSION WILL BE ONE OF THE DEEPEST — IF NOT THE DEEPEST — IN THE POSTWAR PERIOD.
The current downturn is well on its way to becoming the longest in the past six decades. Based on the December IHS Global Insight baseline forecast for the U.S. economy, it will be the fourth deepest in the postwar period (the 1957 recession was the deepest, followed by the contractions of 1973 – 75 and 1981– 82). Nevertheless, given the very negative tone of the incoming data (including the 533,000 drop in November payrolls), the recession could well be the worst in the postwar period. At the same time, the large back-to-back declines in real GDP predicted for the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 (down 5.0% and 3.8%, respectively) are the worst since the 1982 recession, and may easily be the worst in more than six decades. Overall, we expect the U.S. economy to shrink at least 1.8% in 2009.
- THE FEDERAL RESERVE AND OTHER CENTRAL BANKS WILL KEEP CUTTING RATES.
The race to zero is on! The Fed has already cut the federal funds rate to 1% and is likely to take it all the way to zero by the end of January. Once the overnight rate is at zero, the Fed may have to engage in “quantitative easing” (direct purchases of long-term Treasuries). It is already engaging (massively) in unorthodox measures such as buying commercial paper, mortgage-backed securities, credit card debt, and loans to small businesses, students, and car buyers. On December 4, the European Central bank joined the fray by cutting the overnight rate by 75 basis points (to 2.5%), while the Bank of England cut by 100 basis points (to 2.0%). IHS Global Insight now believes that the ECB and BoE will push rates all the way to 1.0% and 0.5%, respectively—and could cut all the way to zero. Most central banks around the world have followed suit. Notably, on November 26, the People’s Bank of China lowered rates by 108 basis points, the largest cut in 11 years and the fourth cut since mid-September.