Gary Shilling's Six Causes of slow long term growth going forward. | Investment Moats Skip to Content

Gary Shilling’s Six Causes of slow long term growth going forward.

Consumer Retrenchment

First and foremost is the dramatic switch by American consumers from a 25-year borrowing and spending binge to a saving spree that should extend a decade or more. As we pointed out last month, in the 1980s and 1990s, U.S. consumers regarded their soaring stock portfolios as continually filling piggybanks that would fund their kids’ education, early retirements and a few round-the-world cruises in between. So they slashed their saving rate and pushed up their borrowing to fund spending growth that consistently exceeded the rise in after-tax income. When stocks nosedived with the collapse in the dot com bubble in 2000-2002, leaping house prices seamlessly took over to finance oversized consumer spending growth…

Financial De leveraging

The recession really started in early 2007 in the financial arena with the collapse of subprime residential mortgages. Then it spread to Wall Street in mid-2007 with the complete mistrust among financial institutions and their assets, too many of which were linked to troubled mortgages. A huge gap opened up back then between the 3-month LIBOR and Treasury bill yields, and that panicked Washington into opening the money floodgates. The Fed started its interest rate-cutting campaign that ultimately drove its federal funds rate target to the zero-to-0.25% range…

Commodity Crisis

The earlier collapse of the commodity bubble will also subdue global economic growth in future years. Sure, commodity consumers benefit from lower prices by the same amount that producers lose. But the share of total spending on commodity imports by consumers, especially in developed lands, is tiny while they account for the bulk of exports for producers, many of them developing countries such as Middle East oil producers…

More Government Regulation

So, U.S. consumer retrenchment, global financial deleveraging and weak commodity prices will keep worldwide economic growth subdued for many years. So, too, will vastly increased regulation here and abroad, the normal reaction to financial and economic crises, as noted in our earlier reports. When a lot of people lose a lot of money, there is a cosmic need for scapegoats and increased regulation. Sure, many embarrassed financial wizards have sworn off their wayward ways and will be cautious for years, probably the balance of their careers. But that won’t stop witch hunts…

Rising Protectionism

Without question, protectionism will slow or even eliminate global economic growth as international trade slumps. As noted in earlier Insights, recessions spawn economic nationalism and protectionism, and the deeper the slump, the stronger are those tendencies. It’s ever so easy to blame foreigners for domestic woes and take actions to protect the home turf while repelling the offshore invaders. The beneficial effects of free trade are considerable but diffuse while the loss of one’s job to imports is very specific. And politicians find protectionism to be a convenient vote-getter since foreigners don’t vote in domestic elections…


Chronic deflation is the sixth reason we forecast slow economic growth in the next decade or so. Chronic deflation spawns self-fulfilling deflationary expectations. Today, who would have the guts to tell a friend he paid the full sticker price for a vehicle? Years of rebates have trained car buyers to expect continuing and even bigger rebates. So they wait to buy. That leads to excess inventories that require even larger price concessions. Buyer suspicions are confirmed so they wait longer, promoting more inventory buildup, more price cuts, etc. in a self-feeding cycle. A key effect, of course, is to retard spending and slow economic growth…

[Full Explanation here at John Mauldin’s site >>]

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