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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

October 8, 2009 at 10:10 AM

A look east for signs of a global recovery

Top of the News: The global recession was seeded in America. Recovery will depend heavily on Asia.

Thanks to aggressive stimulus, continued exports and monetary policy, Asia appears on track to grow sharply in 2009 and but less strongly in 2010, according to a forecast from RGE Monitor. The big drag will be Japan, which is expected to contract this year and grow by 1 percent in 2010. China is due to expand at an 8 percent rate, which looks good but is still well below its boom years.

How fast-developing Asian nations handle the reset in the West will be an important marker. The big export-led push of the early- and mid-2000s won’t work now. America, especially, but also Europe, continues to deal with huge debt loads and weak consumer demand.

That creates a mixed picture for the Puget Sound region. A weak dollar and stimulus-driven demand for commodities in China may help Washington exports. But the ports will continue to see weaker import traffic. Another critical unknown: Whether the Obama administration can increase China’s appetite for American goods.

The Back Story: While retailers worry about the holiday shopping season, Americans continue to cut their debt, another sign there will be no quick return to the old days of living on credit.

According to the Federal Reserve, revolving debt (such as credit cards) fell 13.1 percent in August while non-revolving debt (auto loans, etc.) declined by 1.6 percent. Taken together, consumer credit fell by $12 billion, an annual rate of 5.8 percent and the seventh consecutive monthly decline.

Bottom line: While today’s retail sales report contains some good news, consumers remain overburdened by debt and afraid of their job prospects — not exactly s spending mood.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

The bull will run on

Or so say the top experts

Some stray from the herd

Comments | More in Consumer spending, Dollar, Trade

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