19 April 2006

Global: Oil and Bonds Roach

Morgan Stanley: "In the macro realm, bad things usually come in pairs. The confluence of yet another surge in oil prices and a long-overdue back-up in bond yields has piqued my interest in that regard. Crude oil prices are back near $70 and bond yields are at important thresholds -- closing in on 2% in Japan, 4% in Europe, and slicing through 5% in the US. My concerns stem less from a partial analysis of each development and more from the potential interplay between them. The combined impacts of these two factors raise the odds that a tipping point for an unbalanced global economy could well be close at hand.
I continue to believe that the American consumer is the weak link in the global daisy chain. The combination of rising long-term interest rates and higher oil prices puts an unmistakable squeeze on discretionary income -- the last thing overly-indebted, saving-short US consumers need. The higher gasoline prices arising from the recent back-up in crude oil markets unleashes a classic negative income effect on the consumer that, by Dick Berner’s reckoning, could knock about $60 billion, or 0.6%, off disposable personal income this summer (see his dispatch in today’s Forum, “Risks for the Consumer”). At the same time, higher US bond yields could unleash a negative wealth effect -- taking a toll on a housing market that is already moving lower and also acting to constrain mortgage refinancing activity and household sector equity extraction. For a US consumer who remains chronically short of labor income but who drew support from more than $600 billion of annualized equity extraction in late 2005, that could be an especially tough blow.
In this increasingly interconnected global economy, America’s problems quickly become the world’s problems. Other consumers will also feel these imp"

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