Is the U.S. sliding into a long-running Japanese-style deflation?
After two decades Japan still struggles to deal with the deflationary effects of the sustained collapse of its real estate and financial markets in the early-1990s. So much so that China recently bumped Japan as the world’s second-largest economy in GDP terms.
To add to these persistent ongoing worries the yen has been showing unwelcome latest strength against the U.S. dollar. As a result, the once-mighty Tokyo Nikkei stock market index has again pulled back steeply and remains mired far below its peak levels of way back then. Prosperity without growth is not a pretty prospect.
Another mounting worry is of America’s ever-growing reliance on foreign debt to finance a federal deficit currently in the order of $1.5 trillion, or 10% of GDP, and counting.
In March, when I last walked past the National Debt Clock in midtown Manhattan, some one-third of the $12 trillion-plus U.S. Treasury debt (equivalent to almost 80% of GDP) was owned by China ($900 billion), Japan ($800 billion) and other foreign creditors. These holdings might well have been reduced since then. And what if this were the beginning of enough being enough? When do troublesome trends like these stop, and how should they be reversed?