Warning: Economic collapse ahead

The deflationary effect on the U.S. economy of $150 plus oil will overwhelm the modest forces of genuine economic expansion. The Treasury bond market will collapse, overwhelmed by the weight of deficit financing. Once again, the banking system will be in deep trouble. The industrial sector, beyond the largest and most liquid companies and the extractive industries, will in any case have remained in recession – it is notable that, in spite of the Fed’s frenzy of activity, bank lending has fallen $600 billion in the last year. Unemployment, which will probably enter the second downturn at around current levels, will spike further upwards. The dollar will probably not collapse, but only because it will have been declining inexorably in the intervening year, to give a euro value of $2 and a yen value of 60 to 65 yen to the dollar.

In the next downturn, the Fed will not be able to cut interest rates, because inflation will be spiraling, as in 1980. Instead it will need to raise them while dealing with a profound crisis in the bond markets. Capital in the U.S. will become still more difficult to come by, and unemployment will approach 15%. The U.S.’s only saving graces will be that the inflation will have prevented much further decline in the nominal prices of houses, while the decline in the dollar will have finally swung the payments deficit towards balance. U.S. real wages will be forced downwards by high unemployment, while banks’ relief on the home mortgage front will be balanced by a tsunami of collapsed credit card debt and other consumer debt.

2011 and 2012 will be very unpleasant years, as the Obama administration struggles to get closer to budget balance without pushing up taxes so far as to cause yet a third recession. Stock prices will be at or below their March 2009 lows, and will stay there even as earnings of export-oriented companies will be robust. (Conversely, retailers dealing in cheap imported goods, such as Wal-Mart, will be devastated.) Wages will be generally declining relative to prices, although may show some growth in nominal terms as inflation will be considerable. Foreign goods and services will be inordinately expensive in dollar terms…

As I said, a train wreck. Probability of arrival: close to 100%. Time of arrival: around the end of 2010, or possibly a bit earlier. And at this stage, there’s very little anyone can do about it; the definitive rise of gold above $1,000 marked the point of no return.