January 16, 2004

Personal Balance Sheets in 2004, Up in Flames?

Ran across the figures below in an IMF report on the global economy. Two questions pop into my mind looking at. 1) Will savings continue to rise if the Bush tax cuts aren't permanent? It was the tax cuts that led to the rise in the savings rate. Without them, the fiscal position of the American consumer will deteriorate even more. 2) Rising housing and real estate values supported consumption (mostly through home equity withdrawls). What happens if housing and real estate values imitate the trajectory of stock prices? It wouldn't even take a collapse in real estate prices to deliver a blow to consumption growth...just a slow down. Through tax cuts and low interest rates and a huge Federal deficit, the government and the Fed shot a lot of monetary and fiscal bullets to keep the economy growing and Americans solvent. Can they do the same in 2004? I'm not betting on it...


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