The only thing we know about the future is that it is going to be different.
— Peter Drucker
As Drucker states, it is impossible to predict the future, but we do know it is going to be different.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my concerns regarding China
. It turns out that the People's Bank of China stepped in to help lending during the crisis that I mentioned. However, even though this got some media coverage, the financial media is almost obsessed with one topic — will Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke end/lower quantitative easing, AKA taper.
Some of the bigger issues are being ignored and there are serious risks in both the United States and abroad. While it is impossible to predict the future we can be cognizant of what could lie ahead and not be too complacent.
I have decided to list some of the potential shocks that could cause a serious market collapse. It is impossible to include every single (even likely) scenario, but here are some on my mind. While the media loves to talk Bernanke and what price Apple will close at, investors would do well to pay more attention to the following:
China, which has been the single largest contributor to global growth over the past few decades, is clearly slowing down and faces a potential meltdown, as mentioned above.
World trade is at risk due to currency wars. With Japan explicitly attempting to devalue the yen, other countries could follow. Already South Korea has complained about the policy and many other countries are upset. World trade could be decimated by currency wars, as well as protectionist policies and retaliations. Europe just slapped tariffs on Chinese solar products and China threatened to respond with taxes on European wines.
The eurozone is showing signs of trouble again. There is tension especially in Southern Europe, and the Portuguese government nearly collapsed last week. Many believe that German Chancellor Angela Merkel would like to take a more proactive approach, but such a policy would anger domestic voters ahead of German elections. The continent could face further political and economic chaos as unemployment climbs to record levels.
The Middle East is literally on fire right now. Not only is there the potential for regional wars (there are too many to mention), but any disruption could cause the price of oil to skyrocket. With wage inflation already low, consumers cannot afford higher prices at the pump.
Usually when the economy is not doing well, stocks (or bonds) are cheap. That is not the case. The only debate about U.S. equities seems to be whether they are fairly valued or how overvalued they are. Almost no metric shows U.S. stocks to be cheap. Similarly, stocks (and bonds) across the world are at high valuations/high yields. If the economy starts to go south, expect stocks to follow with a brutal downturn.
There is not much an investor can do about the above events, but instead of salivating over every sound Bernanke makes, it is more prudent to worry (or at least pay attention) to these other potential economic disruptions.
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