Saturday, May 12, 2012

Before I shoot of on my travels tomorrow, my state of the world report

This is a good time to buy gold. 

I was pretty confident of the US till last week, when President Obama made that highly unwise statement about gay marriage (I am not a crusader against it, and I don't think it is that significant a matter in itself, but economics will always be trumped by politics, and politics will always be trumped by morality - so the gay marriage debate is a straw in the wind).  The next Presidency is now wide open, so expect the US to go into a period of lower growth starting next month - till the question of the Presidency is resolved.  Then expect a quick boost to the economy at least till the time that the realities of whatever policies of whoever is President sink in.

The Euro is in doldrums and that will continue for some years - though I still do not anticipate any country exiting from the Eurozone.  The EU is trying to stay the course towards an orderly if slow and difficult withdrawal from the sorts of attitudes and policies that led to the 2007 crisis (which is what continues to make for the global slowdown combined with volatility and vulnerability). So: no great shakes in the Eurozone but probably the most stable part of the world for the foreseeable future.

China continues on its course towards collapsing (certainly as a growth story, and probably politically) this year. 

India will stagger on at the present sort of (not bad) level till 2014, barring any unforeseen disaster - just as the US has thrown away the opportunity of a lifetime, I see India doing the same (unless a government of national unity can be brought in during the next several months). 

Russia's economy will do relatively well (though not as well as the last term) under Putin in his "new" role - though there will be greater social and political unrest, which will probably result in greater loss of freedoms for the population at least as long as Putin is in charge.

Brazil and Latin America I still follow least, so won't make any comment about that at present.

Africa is a continent to watch and seems to be under sensible governments for a change - specially in Rwanda, East Africa and a few other countries.  However, the future of FDI there (and therefore the economic future of the continent) will depend at least partly on the future of South Sudan, and developments in North Africa and the Horn of Africa - which mayat some point skew perceptions of the stability and growth potential of the continent.  Till then, Africa is not a bad bet, though other commodity-based economies will have an increasingly difficult time.

You may have noticed the phrase "not bad" cropping up a few times above.  That's because it is hard to see many good bets in global/ national/ macroeconomic terms. The best bets continue to be in small and medium-sized companies all over the world where you know that the management is trustworthy and where you can "smell" what is going on yourself. 

I do NOT trust any of the big companies at present, certainly not the listed ones, in spite of the fact that some of them are sitting on mountains of cash (or I should say I don't trust them particularly for that reason - too much cash on hand tempts management to unwise decisions).

As always, I take a middle- to long-term view.
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