Trend: Global forces appear to be stabilizing the financial uncertainty in United States.
Dr. George Friedman of Stratfor (timely, accurate global intelligence, analysis, and forecasting) describes why the subprime problem and high energy prices have not devastated the United States economy. I find it troubling that the US is dependent on these trading partners.
Dubai and the rest of the Arabian Peninsula, as well as China, are holding huge dollar reserves, and the last thing they want to do is sell those dollars in sufficient quantity to drive the dollar’s price even lower. Nor do they want to see a financial crisis in the U.S. markets. Both the Chinese and the Arabs have far too much to lose to want such an outcome. So, in an infinite number of open market transactions, as well as occasionally public investments, they are moving to support the U.S. markets, albeit for their own reasons.
It is the only explanation for what we are seeing. The markets should be selling off like crazy, given the financial problems. They are not. They keep bouncing back, no matter how hard they are driven down. That money is not coming from the financial institutions and hedge funds that got ripped on mortgages. But it is coming from somewhere. We think that somewhere is the land of $90-per-barrel crude and really cheap toys.
Many people will see this as a tilt in global power. When others must invest in the United States, however, they are not the ones with the power; the United States is. To us, it looks far more like the Chinese and Arabs are trapped in a financial system that leaves them few options but to recycle their dollars into the United States. They wind up holding dollars — or currencies linked to dollars — and then can speculate by leaving, or they can play it safe by staying. In our view, these two sources of cash are the reason global markets are stable.
Energy prices might fall (indeed, all commodities are inherently cyclic, and oil is no exception), and the amount of free cash flow in the Arabian Peninsula might drop, but there still will be surplus dollars in China as long as it is an export-based economy. Put another way, the international system is producing aggregate return on capital distributed in peculiar ways. Given the size of the U.S. economy and the dynamics of the dollar, much of that money will flow back into the United States. The United States can have its financial crisis. Global forces appear to be stabilizing it.
The Chinese and the Arabs are not in the U.S. markets because they like the United States. They don’t. They are locked in. Regardless of the rumors of major shifts, it is hard to see how shifts could occur. It is the irony of the moment that China and the Arabian Peninsula, neither of them particularly fond of the United States, are trapped into stabilizing the United States. And, so far, they are doing a fine job.