stephen roach at morgan stanley
ruminates on the words of greenspan prior to this week's g-7 meetings.
Greenspan’s admission came when he finally made the connection between the excesses of America’s property market and its gaping current account deficit. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time he ventured into this realm of the debate with such clarity. He starts by conceding “…the growth of home mortgage debt has been the major contributor to the decline in the personal saving rate in the United States from almost 6 percent in 1993 to its current level of 1 percent.” He then goes on to admit that the rapid growth in home mortgage debt over the past five years has been “driven largely by equity extraction” -- jargon for the withdrawal of asset appreciation from the consumer’s largest portfolio holding, the home. In addition, the Chairman cites survey data suggesting, “Approximately half of equity extraction shows up in additional household expenditures, reducing savings commensurately and thereby presumably contributing to the current account deficit.” In other words, he concedes that a debt-induced consumption boom has led to a massive current account deficit. That says it all, in my view.
... Alan Greenspan’s confession finally sets the record straight on how he got us into this mess. But it is a confession that is still steeped in denial. The presumption that natural market forces can cure all ignores the lingering perils of an all-too treacherous endgame. Let’s not forget that nearly five years after the equity bubble popped, America’s imbalances -- to say nothing of the world’s imbalances -- remain in uncharted territory.
roach's assessment of the asset economy here