Thursday, February 05, 2009

Dots Or Not

Ignorance can usually be bliss until the ignorant take upon themselves to connect the dots as I feel strongly tempted to do when I read three articles I read recently on the US economy and China's role. The WSJ article notes that there is a limit to how much US debt foreigners will buy and just because they have signed up so far does not mean they will continue to do so for ever.

.. confidence is derived from the fact that the arrangement has gone on for some time, and that our creditors would be unwilling to face the economic turbulence that would result from an interruption of the status quo.

But just because the game has lasted thus far does not mean that they will continue playing it indefinitely.

The NYT story is about Chinese spending more abroad and touring foreclosed properties around the US for bargains. That sounds a lot like a scavenger hunt except this is no party game at least for those who once called the foreclosed properties their home.

The last article talks about the new found pariah status of former Wall Street employees and their version of the current snafu.

Financiers tell their not-for-attribution account of the mortgage crisis like this: Americans undersaved and overspent for decades, relying on rising property values to bankroll their lifestyles. But nobody on Wall Street forced United States homeowners to take out loans on houses they couldn't afford, or refinance mortgages to spend money on cars they shouldn't have bought.

The esoteric securities underneath the current mess are, to the people who invented and marketed them, analogous to pharmaceutical drugs. Used correctly, they can enhance your life. Abused, they are lethal.

I had to wonder if these stories were somehow related and added up to something telling and significant about what the future holds. The punditry is usually quick on pontificate on such matters and help the rest of us figure it out. Given their recent track record and general lack of agreement even on the broad trends, what's the average person reading the news to make of it all - to connect or not connect the dots becomes the question.

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