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Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK
Is the world heading for recession?
Share prices across the world have continued to fall, with market indicators this week reaching record lows in the US, Europe and Japan.
Many analysts believe that the US economy is heading for a recession. President Bush went public this week, urging investors not to panic. Political uncertainties in Japan are hitting shares there.
Is this just a market correction, or are we heading for a global recession? How will it affect your region? Are you prepared for a downturn?
We have been discussing these issues LIVE in our programme Talking Point on Air, broadcast by the BBC World Service and BBC News Online. Read your comments or watch the programme.
Select the link below to watch Talking Point On Air
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Andrew Visser, Washington DC, USA
I work for a very large US tech firm who has been hit incredibly hard by the slowdown in corporate spending.
This is having a knock-on effect on employee bonuses, stock options etc. That is a whole lot of spending power that is evaporating.
If things dont improve in the next few quarters then the tunnel could be long and dark.
I truly hope so. I am so sick and tired here in the UK of meeting unskilled, untalented, 20-somethings who have grown rich over the last 5 years by doing absolutely nothing, just because the value of their house has gone through the roof. I would love to see the smug smiles of satisfaction wiped from their faces by a global recession and a corresponding house market crash. Fortunately I have a broad I.T skill set that pretty much allows me to go from job to job, so long as I'm willing to move, so I'm confident that if a recession hit my job, I could get another one. But most of these people have a very narrow skill set, have never left their home town, and bought their house 15 miles from mom and dad. Everyone needs a good recession from time to time to wake them up and make them realise how powerless they truly are. How events beyond their control can reduce them to nothing, in an instant. It's a spiritual experience!
For Alex in London: you must be right about Communism with all those Americans trying to illegally emigrate there by sailing over there in little boats.
Perhaps the problem amongst many is to misunderstand economics. As I see it, the US Federal Reserve among others at the behest no doubt of the US government among others put the US economy, if the figures are accurate, into a recession as if it were a recess, something which we use to take at school in the early grades, or nap time in kindergarten. In so far as I can see, we are witness more of a procession than a recession, a procession in and out of the economy to go to and return from recess, a break if you like in the ordinary economic hub-bub of life. We are not so much in a bubble bath, but a babble bath, having lost our orientation on how to capitalise from a non-crisis.
Just a thought for Fabian, UK. If it is a dream come true for capitalism fall flat on its face I really suggest a trip to some of the former states of the Soviet Union to see people with no electricity, food, or heating. Unimaginable housing conditions railways, hospitals, schools closed, because of no finance. Shops deserted, workers unpaid, a strangled government with no will for change. I reckon Fabian could sit back, with a vodka, and toast the wondrous success of communism.
Like Duncan from London I am also praying for a recession to bring some sanity back to a housing market which is currently economically cleansing the South of its young people. Hopefully a bust will mean first-time buyers stand a chance of affording something bigger than a portaloo.
The markets are not an accurate measure either of the state of economies, US or European, or of real business confidence. They are by definition over-cautious and over-enthusiastic by turns. History shows that the current violent falls and rises will stabilise rapidly revealing, rather like a bungee rope released under tension, and reveal the underlying trend - down, but not cataclysmically so. The small kernel of central truth here is the real speed and size of the slowdown in the US economy - and you don't go from robust good health to all hands to the pumps that quickly.
How can the world head for recession, Gordon Brown has promised us that there would be no return to Boom and Bust.
This stock market recession comes as expected and highlights the lack of individual thought. Somebody said off the internet when it was in it's primitive stage, that it was the market to invest in and the future was the "Internet". Like sheep all market analysts followed. Over the following years a company was seen to have no future unless it invested heavily in the internet, even though most did not know what returns they would get from it. Some entrepreneurs who thought they would be made if the set up their "niche" in the online market. Did they not realise that there were thousands of other entrepreneurs who thought of the same ideas and all would be in the same market place fighting for the same customers. Who were the customers going to be anyway?
Could investors not see that the internet is just another way of selling things similar to mail order, but requiring expensive servers, overpriced analysts, programmers and other infrastructure.
For the stock markets to settle they have just got to write off their heavy internet "investment" as a bad experience.
It's really funny to read the comments from people who have no idea what condition the US economy really is in. Don't believe the hype. There's no recession, no panic. Americans have lots of money waiting to be invested and spent. Stock market investors are just acting like spoiled brats, asking the Fed Chairman for help they don't really need or deserve. So there are now fewer Americans who can afford multi-million dollar homes - big deal!
John Bates, Ipswich UK
Recession is not the correct word, we are now at the downward trend of the capitalist curve. Consumers are more careful nowadays seeking value for money, forcing all manufacturers to work on a very low margin. Such low margin now is not enough to justify more investment, hence causing a downward spiral. Who ever survives this cycle will become stronger as a result of the failures of many of their competitors.
"Alex Laidlaw London, UK" - get a grip on reality! Why anyone would want to work hard except for their own gain is beyond me. That is why capitalism works and socialism and communism do not. It's why communism is described as the most painful route from capitalism to capitalism. As for the world markets, people got carried away. Just as a hangover follows a drinking binge, so a market correction follows a market hype. Perhaps this will shake out the no-hopers who seemed to genuinely believe the markets are a one-way bet.
The plight of the US economy is being grossly distorted. The new Republican administration, the news media and the stock markets have all grossly overstated the economy's demise for their own self-serving interests. The reality is that the state of the economy by definition is not in a recession (3 consecutive periods of negative growth), although it has rapidly cooled off and is headed for one.
Further to Philip Mussell's comments that the economy goes in 10-year cycles - ie 1971, 1981 and 1991 were all recession years and therefore 2001 will be a recession - does this mean that Spurs are going to win the FA cup, because they won trophies in 1951, 1961, 1971, 1981,and 1991?
If world leaders act fast, we can stop this recession right now and be back on track in six months. What we need is good leadership among the G8 countries.
What's happening now has been coming for a long time. Analysts had been saying that the US stock markets were reaching unrealistic heights. Sooner or later a heavy correction was bound to cut the markets down to size. Of course people are sore about it - especially those who got in near the top of the cycle - but the signs have been there for those who wished to heed them. I think the US will bounce back when people realise that this isn't a meltdown and they will spend again. Hopefully we will all have learnt a lesson from this and won't be tempted by such easy money the next time.
The world is already in a recession. Jobs are harder to come by and cuts in social services mean that lower income groups can no longer count on help from governments. All this time there was one single distraction that took people's minds off the real issues - the Internet. Now that the fuss about the Internet seems to have died down, the world will gradually find out how it was led into complacency by ignorant financial analysts whose only concern was stock market prices.
Capitalism is the production of wealth, social wealth, for private profit; can we see a contradiction here? Why we're heading for such a slump now is the fact that capitalists have no control of the market any more than street cleaners do; they have no control over how much is produced. This causes a glut to be made. Over-production, under demand. Why do people try to mystify the market as if it's some abstract entity? Get rid of this mode of production that no longer works, is barbaric, unenlightened, bigoted, oppressive, murderous and backward; time for real change.
Because the USA is sliding towards recession it always drags the rest of the world down with it. Here in the UK unemployment is at an all time low, inflation is under control, and still our stock market tumbles. I dread to think what will happen to the stock market over here when we fall on bad times.
It's hard to care. The whole terror of recession is based on the assumption that something is terribly wrong if consumption and production aren't constantly "growing". While no one is prepared to question this, we'll keep on having booms and busts.
Morgan O'Conner, USA
No, we're not heading towards a recession, we ARE already in recession. No matter what the analysts say, we can observe a worldwide reduction in consumption as well as increases in redundancies and retrenchments.
Tell us something we don't already know.
There is not enough data yet to say that the US is in a recession. The housing market/ industry continues to expand. History shows that in the US a recession doesn't occur when this industry is growing. We are simply in a correction. When looking at the stock market, always think long-term.
In a market economy, there is a fresh stimulus whenever a new factor creates an imbalance in the cost structure. In plain words...the "industrial revolution", the telegraph, the telephone, railroads, aeroplanes, radio, television, the computer, the transistor, wireless communication, cheap and ubiquitous computer power - all have created hopes and momentum to markets during their early stages. Upon being taken for granted, the excitement cools and so do the sources of capital to exploit and promote these new "factors". The excitement stems from the hopes that new cost structures or mass markets will be found. Yes it is a "herd" instinct for banks and investors alike to act in an irrational manner when a new, unproven technology or application is discovered. However, this irrational or to put into less flattering terms, this greed, is the very basis by which these products become cheap and ubiquitous and results in, dare I say, "progress".
The current situation is a "morning after" a big binge, on the hopes for a new paradigm vis-a-vis the dot.com bubble. Like a bad hangover, this too will go away. In the long run, greed equals progress. If you think this pattern of human behaviour can ever be contained or eliminated, you are naive. Without these radical new ideas, we would still be living in caves. What occurs during this adjustment, however long it takes, we will resume these the patterns of surge and retraction. Perhaps we will not see such an extreme in our lifetime, but the pattern will continue, whenever and wherever there are free markets.
Natasha, Surrey, UK
What is interesting is that no one is using the "D" word - depression! A recession -- decline for two consecutive quarters -- is no great disaster. If, however the "recession" were to extend into a depression -- downturn for years and unemployment rates of 15 - 20% then the entire world would be in for a terrible shock. It would be helpful to remind ourselves what happened in 1929. It was not just the market crash but the foolish government reaction that led into the depression. Right now we are having an economic slow down not a recession!
The economy goes in ten year cycles, fuelled significantly by the over spending and over credit of companies and individuals. (Driven partially by the greed of our society) Once the economy has calmed down, we will be able to try the same again.
Dr Jon, India
Well, one can generally tell that some form of an "economic downturn" is due when the hyperbole over the economy, "new" or old, reaches an extreme. There is certainly no reason to believe that the case is any different this time.
As to how this particular bust will affect the economy here in the Ohio Valley, a dinosaur of the old economy? This recession may spell ruin for the local steel industries, rusting giants that have teetered on the brink of bankruptcy for years. The only action that will save them now would be subsidy from the government and tariffs for imported steel. Unfortunately, tariffs and subsidies are aggravators of a world-wide economic downward spiral. Will the politicians decide to save an industry (and a way of life) at the cost to the global economy? The answer to this question, repeated many times over on a global scale, will determine the severity of the current recession.
All the bad news floating around isn't really that bad. The problem we face is a global media (especially the US media) too keen on reporting and over-emphasising bad news to an extent that they have almost brainwashed people into believing that we are heading for depression.
Another problem is that we find ourselves comparing today economic data to that of a year ago when stocks were overvalued and there was no real sensibility anywhere. We must compare our situation to that of a few years back. Growth of 4-5% is impossible to sustain for long periods of time we must learn to be content with 1.5-3.5% growth.
In summation we, the individuals and investment firms must be sensible when we make economic policy and must refrain from setting goals too high for corporations to meet and causing rapid sell-offs and devaluation. Governments must make sensible fiscal policy that which they think is best rather then what the media calls for.
Frankly I could never see why companies which have never made a profit, or demonstrated that they have any means of making a profit, should have been so highly valued. The whole dot.com bubble was an illusion built on greed, and I'm glad the world is finally coming to its senses. Real stocks are much more level, and real businesses are cautiously optimistic.
With all the economic incidents developing
around the world, surely we are
heading into a recession.
But the US won't feel the recession as much as the
developing countries do, because
of their strong economic infrastructure.
Just as before with the Asian market
crisis, the US felt the aftershocks
as a small scratch unlike South America
which felt it as a stab.
All I know is this,
Nobody I know who's on the internet likes to pay for anything so the idea of making any money on the net as a retailer is low.
Secondly, whatever you say about the Japanese they do work hard, are well educated and make great electronics.
So my advice is, once Japan hits rock bottom invest in it. And stay away from dot com retailers, most haven't a chance.
House prices will fall, jobs will decline, the credit card economy will come to its senses. Most of the boom was funded by borrowed money sooner or later the bills had to be paid. The best way now is to save money and sit it out.
Well I keep praying for a global recession as it's the only way I'm ever going to be able to afford a flat in London. Bring on the crash!
What we are seeing today is a world economy that is more integrated than ever before. As the Asian economic crisis of 97-98 proved an economic downturn in one region will severely affect other regions too. However, the world's economies are still operating on different business cycles. Therefore we will experience boom and recessions more frequently than in the past, as we are now seeing with the US and Japan entering into what will probably be an even larger economic slowdown than 1997.
Of course. Capitalism will always be a cycle of boom and bust with each progressive cycle getting worse and worse.
Ian, USA/ UK
The recession in North America began in the auto sector in May of 2000, which has always been a good leading indicator where the general economy will go. However, this time around, price deflation could prove to be more hazardous since the internet has made price competition much more prominent than in past recessions.
If the current downturn is related to energy, we are in big trouble. People around Iowa seem to think that we have unlimited crude oil reserves that the industry is sitting on until prices reach the sky. Now that China is changing from bicycles to motor vehicles, it seems only a matter of time before the global economy sees an empty fuel gauge. It seems inevitable that everything will eventually grind to a halt.
If you consult a graphical representation of the Dow Jones' point value over the past year, the latest slump is really only a tiny dip. Investors must think of the long-term ... AND NOT PANIC!
We've just seen an incredible twenty year long bull market. Nasdaq valuations have been shown to be ridiculously high in the last year... and the Dow is about to be shown up as the house of cards it is too. Simplistic maybe, but what goes up must come down. When the Dow and other major indices around the world go into final capitulation mode (which could be happening right now), well, it'll be the 1930's all over again.
Predicting the future is bound to lead to mistakes. America is a lot more high tech economy than the rest of the world and high tech recession is a certainty. However with countries like Britain where high tech is not such a major feature (not such a success) it might have less effect.
It was only ten years or so ago that everyone thought that Japan had discovered the perfect economic system. I think the same sort of hype and excesses have built up in the US and I think things could get quite unpleasant when banks start having to cope with loans that have gone bad after years of reckless lending. I would have to think that simultaneous recession in Japan and the US would have a serious impact on the UK too.
Of course we are heading into recession. Japan cannot let big brother US down. Being the biggest creditor whereas the latter is the biggest debtor in the world, all Japan need to do to get out of this rut is to sell or in this case dispose back a sizeable portion of what it holds in junk, bonds and other investments in US. Of course big brother will fall like a ton of bricks and this will never be allowed to happen. So how long before we wise up about the monopoly of wealth by the power of the US currency.
I tend to disagree with "Clive, Hong Kong" who suggests that investing in the market is expecting money for doing nothing. When you invest money in the stock market you are providing capital needed for companies to grow and expand, which helps grow then economy. Wealth is something which grows naturally anyway, as an economy does. To not invest your wealth, is to see it be eroded by inflation.
Recession and fall of the stock markets are two different things. We just happen to be experiencing both at this time. The stock market is run on entirely different dynamics than the macroeconomics. Both, however, in the present capitalistic system are based on greed and ever increasing consumption of goods that we don't always need. Greed needs these kind of corrections from time to time.
The Capitalist system always have been through recession, trough, growth, we can't expect any economic systems will provide perpertual growth for our global society. We have to be realistic to face economic prosperity and economic downturns as well.
There is definitely going to be a recession in Australia, and it has cost the
conservative political parties the Western Australia and Queensland state
elections already this year. But even with our dollar below 50 US cents
for the first time, we haven't seen anything yet like what would happen if
the Japanese government stops artificially propping up its banks.
Stock market bubbles - just like high inflation rates - are all about hidden mechanisms for redistributing wealth in societies.
In the present case, we should be asking ourselves who are the real winners and who are the losers.
Clive, Hong Kong
James Arnold, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Jim Foley, Yakutat, Alaska
The 1990's were a period of extraordinary, unique, greed. A generation of
people mortgaged the next generation's future. The "growth" of the 90's that
everyone praised will be given back over the next decade.
Mark, Melbourne, Australia
This is not a slump. Even Tony Blair could pull the world out of it - just by announcing a TFT screen to surf the Internet by every NHS bedside.
Hasn't the whole economic 'progress' idea been blown out of proportion?
To a large extent it depends upon selling more and more trash that is being thrown away quicker and quicker so that more of these are bought in the name of economic 'progress'.
Your comments before we went ON AIR
People forget that corrections like this one are just another valuable opportunity to buy up shares and stocks again and let the market resume it natural course upwards. Economic indicators on both sides of the Atlantic got it wrong this time to predict such a high and artificial market levels. This is the price to pay but with more stringent controls and interest rate decisions set for the long term rather than short-medium term, market loss like this can be dampened in the future.
Rehnuma Ali from Bangladesh makes the point that Bangladesh is always in recession. There is a reason for this; the global capitalist system is an appallingly inefficient and inequitable way to run the planet. You can thank global capitalism for environmental degradation, famine, agricultural meltdown and the spectre of nuclear war. I believe that this obscene economic system has it's days very much numbered and I will be doing all I can to expedite it's demise.
It is my guess that the Nasdaq will fall below 1000 in the next 12 to 18 months, and the dow will sink to 5000. The Dollar will suffer and the best currencies to invest in now for the mid term is the Euro and the Swiss Franc. As for where to invest, well the best place looks like precious metals. Gold Silver, Platinium etc. This is a correction but for the first time in a long time this is a 'Real' Correction.
Dr Bryan Rylands, Zug, Swizerland
Dave Brown (ex pat), Tampa USA
A recession is very likely. Most trends in the western world begin in the US. It is therefore likely the other main economic powers will follow suit and catch the cold. Whether it turns into a depression or not seems to depend on just how much of a revolution information technology will make in the world: are computers destined to become just a more sophisticated version of the fax machine or telephone, or will they really change our lives more fundamentally? Soon consumers will get tired of buying new versions of Windows and new cell phones. They might come to see that actually, these are really, basically, just gadgets which seem to over-complicate our already stressful lives rather than making them simpler.
Stephen Kenney, Sunnyvale, CA, USA
One thing that should convince doubters that we are in for a recession is Tony Blair's insistence on getting his election in NOW, before things get worse. Of course, the fact that half the rural population won't be able to participate fully because of the foot and mouth crisis is also pretty good from his point of view, since most of those folks are pretty mad at him already. Once the bills start coming in as a result of the damage to farming and tourism from foot and mouth the economy in UK will take a further hit.
Boom or bust, Bangladesh seems to be in perpetual recession.
We seem to forget that we are passing through history, and just as capitalism grew out of the stagnation of feudalism so, as more and more people see through the haze of capitalism, something new will come forth. Capitalism is just a minute passing 'fad' in the history of mankind. Perhaps the answer is true Socialism as Marx predicted?
The present economic mess is mainly due to untimely correction in the late nineties. When oil prices were sky rocketing leaders were turning a blind eye. As a result company earnings are down resulting in lay offs & economic recession. It is natural that what goes up comes down but lack of close control of the situation in the past has contributed more to the down turn.
I believe that once again fears of a major recession are unfounded. Japan's problems have been in continuation since the early nineties and the problems of South East Asia several years ago led to little or no recognisable effect. This may be because of the nature of the European market where the majority of trade is with other member states. The sooner Eastern Europe hops on the train the better.
John Schmidt, Lewisville, Texas
Capitalism succeeds only in an environment of growth and expansion. We now see the results of globalism in which entire industries have been exported to lower wage areas of the world. Wages are the basis of all prosperity. Any reduction in them produces the inevitable economic decline. What the world leaders should be now pursuing is a strategy to deal with the next world depression as to neglect this will make the French and Russian revolutions seem like a Quaker Sunday picnic by comparison when this economic bubble fully implodes.
I remember the CEO of Psion saying applied physics has led us into an age of creative destruction. Welcome aboard.
I think history is repeating itself. We had the same situation in 1976, the beginning of the high oil prices and hence the downturn of the world economy. I can only predict the same as what happened last time and that is another war or something similar in order to get the economy of the Western countries into a better shape.
Graham, Adelaide, Australia
There is a trend of recession almost all over the world. Now the whole world should be united to come out of this condition.
The so-called "global recession" is caused by two major factors. One is the USA's huge influence in the global market, and another one is the huge influence of stock markets inside the economic system.
The economic boom before this so-called "recession" is mainly caused by investment markets, especially the stock market. We can look at the "technology stocks boom" in the USA before this recession. The stocks of some IT-related companies rose to an unreasonable high point. As Mark from Vienna says, stock prices have disconnected from reality. Many people got their money by shares, and they used the money for spending or further investment, thus creating the "economic boom".
As the IT bubble finally exploded and the Dow sinks, many Americans lost money and thus causing the negative economic statistics shown since several months ago. And with the huge-influence of the USA in the global market, the stock markets in the world also fall, causing the global recession.
Bubble economy is a harm to people, especially with more people investing into markets. We should not just put all our strength and resources on investment markets so that our economy can have a healthy and not a bubbly growth.
It is as if the press has to have some talking point and they are never asked six months later what happened to their predictions. So much of the growth has been without any resources except that of brain power. Too many companies have floated and the original shareholders have cashed up and left the small investor with only their hopes and dreams. The world has lost its leaders who had some vision, patience and plans. Today it is TV image and no substance and we the people accept it. A recession can be avoided or at least controlled so the effects are not severe by going back to self control and planning.
Raymond Leong, Malaysia
True to form, we now have socialists claiming that Bush has "talked" the country into a recession. I suppose he also "talked" Cisco and Motorola into having to cut staff and has "talked" hundreds of companies into not meeting their profit objectives. Get real!
Until US President Bush gets his US $1.6 Trillion tax cut, the markets will continue to decline. He and his staff have been talking down the economy since November. Remember Alan Greenspan's testimony before a congressional finance committee - and remember that he is potentially the single most influential person worldwide regarding the markets.
Many companies are announcing massive layoffs. The surplus will soon be a deficit again. Sounds like the early 90's all over again.
With the global economy so interdependent and interwoven, does the world have to suffer so that the rich in the US get their tax cut?
K. Jackson, Washington DC, USA
Recession? Without going into it at length, I really don't think it need be the case with respect to the mechanics of the globalised economy that we need a correction of epic proportions. But as ever fear will prevail and we will talk ourselves into a recession as usual. Human nature is predictable in this respect.
Maruti Bhandarkar, Boston, MA
Come with the wind,
Gone with the wind,
We are already in a recession, whether or not world government leaders admit it or not.
Of course we're heading for a recession - every boom is followed by a bust in the recession, investment, speculation, complacency, recession cycle.
Investment is the unglamorous rebuilding after a recession. As the returns get good, speculation takes over to get more and better returns turning the market into a giant Ponzi (pyramid) scheme. Complacency sets in when the financial experts (sic) adopt the "this time it will be different" approach and suggest that perhaps the old economic rules don't apply any more. At this point, you have around 6-12 months to get out before the next recession hits and everything starts over.
Most of us have seen enough recessions to be familiar with this, but nobody seems to notice.
After 8 years of economic growth we have a new president and in my view a lack of confidence in his stewardship. Whether Clinton effected the economy or not, the perception that everyone had, was that all was well. One look at the worried face of George W. and you know we are in trouble. Oh well 4 more years. (Democratic Slogan for 92' "It's the economy stupid")
André Peillex, Nantes, France
I have just read that the euro has again gone under $0.90. It seems that investors feel the $ is a better refuge than the ¿. But is it such a good move? By doing this, European goods and services become cheaper for Americans to buy while American goods and services become more expensive for the Europeans. This may result in even more difficulty for American companies who may be unable to be competitive. And in turn, this may cause further fall in the NYSE. Not nice.
B. Singh, Punjab/USA
We need to look at the big picture, and until we confront that we need a standard, level playing field for all people, we are just waiting for a massive global depression to change social order. Let us hope we do not get another world conflict of mass proportions.
Today's 'recession' will be seen tomorrow as a necessary 'adjustment' for companies and tech industries that were way over-valued because of tech hype.
Jon Livesey, USA
I believe we are heading for a recession. In fact I believe it is already starting. Michelin have already made virtually all their personnel redundant and this time companies will be making a lot more people redundant. House prices are due to fall and the stock market has recently been at its lowest for many years. Unless I am wrong, things will become difficult for a time ...
What kind of economy is that, when of the 2000 billion dollars that are circulating on trading places all over the world, only 2% is used for true commercial activities, while the rest is mainly spent on stock markets, in other words on pure speculation?
As it seems, billions of people are suffering because of our ruthless and silly financial games and doing so the rich are begging for trouble indeed.
Alan, Manchester, UK
I don't believe that we are heading for recession. I think it is a case that companies have been expecting the growth to keep growing at the same rates year on year, when there has to be a little slow down to catch some breath at some point. In turn the companies posted high profit expectations than they should have. A lot of the companies are paying the price as although they are announcing larger profits, they expected more. Another fact that backs up that we are not heading for recession is that sales figures for February rose higher than expected. Slowdown? I don't think so.
I think that we are entering a recession. The US Federal Reserve must take some of the blame.
Trying to engineer the economy is impossible because of it's complexity. But thinking themselves gods, the Feds upped the interest rates to battle some imaginary inflation demon until they strangled growth. I hope that Alan Greenspan will be among the future jobless. (I can dream can't I?)
Clive Mitchell, Cardiff, UK
This is a dream come true - Capitalism falling on its face again. Fat, rich and greedy people losing everything and being cast into the street. I'm going to just sit right back with my beer and enjoy the show - maybe we'll even get to see the fall of the US Empire.
As others have said, we are not headed for a recession; we have been in one for about a year.
During the latter half of the nineties, money started chasing after all sorts of worthless investments. There was endless babble about the "new economy" and about Internet companies. Shares sold for over 100 times earnings. The investors who swallowed that nonsense have lost a lot of money. With less money available, stock prices fall and people buy fewer goods, which causes stock prices to fall further.
Many commentators are calling for interest-rate cuts, tax cuts, and the like. There is a limit to what such measures can accomplish. Like the lower vertebrates, we sometimes overdo it and end up sick. The current recession is the hangover that comes from overindulgence. To extend the analogy, we need to take some aspirin, rest, eat moderately, and get better before we go back to the bar.
The economic boom in the technology sector was fuelled by a general improvement in the standard of living, improvements in technology and the (perceived) need for companies to rapidly upgrade their PCs for the Y2K. All that is happening now is that the economy is returning to a sustainable level. Super growth can't be sustained indefinitely, markets get saturated. A recession is not on it's way, but a slowdown and readjustment is. Companies (especially computer ones) should have easily forecast this reduction in profits. To be frank I would have expected this to have been apparent in the first perhaps second quarter of 2000, not now.
Mark B, UK
If you want one you will get one. Market declines relate to confidence. Once the media starts hyping up the slide in prices they fall further and faster. Notice the emotive language used - prices never go down - they crash! There is little science here - most so-called analysts and brokers follow the pack.
It could depend whether we talk ourselves into a recession. As share profits and losses are only notional until the shares are sold, if you don't sell you aren't losing real money.
I believe we are heading for recession and the first of many clues are there already.
1. Manufacturing is falling
The media seems to be doing its best to talk the economy into a recession.
Matt Clarke, Birmingham, UK
There was a recession in 1971, one in 1981 and again in 1991. Business frequently runs in ten year cycles, surely this was to be expected. Not only that but the technology stocks were massively overrated and growth unsustainable. Laymen could see that but apparently bright sparks and whizz kids couldn't. Could that have had something to do with greed blinding them to the obvious?
Let's hope so.
I am far too rich for my own good. It's tough at the top.
After eight years of rapid economic growth, it was obvious that a deep slowdown was going to happen. Unfortunately, the US have been so wrapped up in other affairs (the incompetent election etc) they have ignored their economy and now they will suffer. Any action that Bush takes now will not effect their economy for at least 12-18 months. Couple this with current oil prices and the weakening dollar, I fear the worst.
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