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Thursday, June 9, 2011

"New Normal"... Hope or Frustration?

Like every morning, I settled at my desk, logged in to my computer (Bloomberg Terminal) and read news. And saw a news story elaborating few economists' warning on unemployment rate in the US. Since the downturn started, we have been listening to and looking at all fiscal efforts to combat higher unemployment rate which is the key impediment to achieve economic growth. We have managed to drop it down to 9% and started to believe that within 3-4 years, it may be at its normal level. What is this "Normal Level"? Is it decided by the congress or economists or something else? Unexpected and turtle speed recovery in developed economies has certainly shifted those economic graphs.

Current unemployment rate is seen as "New Normal" by few economists. If that turns out to be true, then 8-9% rate will stay in normal business cycle. It may climb to 13% or 15% or 18%, if another downturn arrives. But no more hopes for those 5% or 7%?

Similar things follow in the case of US Debt Ceiling and US Credit Ratings. If we consider "New Normal" in debt ceiling, then new ceiling will allow the Government to borrow more than they are doing now. More public debt. Higher debt to GDP ratio. We know the consequences. I still remember one of the story on US credit ratings published couple of years ago. It said "If US credit rating is downgraded to AA from AAA, then new AAA will be AA." Doesn't it sound like "New Normal"? Yes, it does. New Normal changes the benchmarks.

Establishing "New Normal" for unemployment rate, debt ceiling and credit rating (... and many more may come) have positive consequences as well. Based on hopes and optimism, they give us room to accelerate recovery and to acquire potential growth opportunities. But that is what we have been doing since last three years. We might have started to realize that perhaps there is no hope. Potential frustration may make us prompt to start everything from scratch... and that can be done by creating new zeros... new benchmarks... new normal.

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