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Tea Leaf: The ABCs of the global economy

Published: Tuesday, July 5 2011 12:48 p.m. MDT

This is the companion piece to The ABCs of the U.S. economy of June 14, 2011

Austerity — The concept of a nation living within its means will spread across southern Europe as European authorities, the IMF, and global financial markets demand change. The Greek people hate it.

Banks (European) — One of the major incentives for German and French leadership to throw hundreds of billions of euros at Greece, Ireland, and Portugal? G & F banks own massive amounts of bonds issued by the smaller nations.

China — Government efforts to keep inflation and excessive lending under wraps … while also avoiding a real estate bubble … should see this juggernaut's growth pace slow somewhat.

Dollar — With no shortage of critics, the American currency will remain the global community's "primary currency" for years to come.

Europe — Here's thinkin' the Germans and the French wish they had never heard of the "European integration" concept.

Financial System — The U.S. and global financial systems emerged from the Great Recession bruised and battered, but still largely viable. The eventuality of a Greek default in one form or another could challenge it again.

Global Economy — Slowing down a bit as the U.S., China, and India downshift. Europe will be sluggish (with the exception of a solid German economy).

Hunger — A child starves to death every six seconds somewhere in the world. Can't we work together to stop this travesty?

Inflation — Higher oil and food prices have hurt hundreds of millions of people around the globe.

Japan — Very sluggish economic growth (at best) over the past 20 years, after powerful performance in the '60s, '70s, and '80s. Tens of millions of Japanese citizens wonder, "What Happened?"

Korea (North) — Massive failure of this centrally planned economy leads to frequent "saber rattling." Meanwhile, the South Korean economy continues to prosper.

Latin & South America — Growth prospects from mild to strong, with Brazil leading the way. Excessive government bureaucracy and corruption in the region will limit gains.

Mexico — Even as drug cartel violence dominates the headlines, economic growth has been the best in 10 years. Greater employment opportunities at home are most welcome.

Neighbor to the North — Canadian economic growth has slowed in recent months. Still, by most measures, this nation is outperforming its southern neighbor.

Oil — Major advances in exploration and production technology should help keep prices under control over the longer-term horizon. At the same time, what happens inNorthern Africa and the Middle East still counts big-time.

Politics — A number of major nations have moved to the "right" in recent elections, with an eye toward reversing some of the massive government expansion of prior years. The U.S. in '12?

Quagmires — As before, there never seems to be a shortage. Today's list includes Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iran, Iraq, Libya, the Sudan, and the Middle East.

Russia — Corruption, crime, and questions about whether Medvedev or Putin will be "minding the store" in coming years make life a challenge.

Saudi Arabia — Whether the tens of billions of dollars the Saudi king is throwing at unemployed young people will keep social unrest under warps will be a key factor in oil prices in coming years.

Travel — Spending on global tourism remains solid, even as visitors largely avoid political "hot spots." Those visiting the U.S. are BIG spenders.

U.S.A. — Nearly three times the size of China's $5.5 trillion annual economy … with one-fourth as many people. In my book that says American workers are roughly 10-12 times more productive.

Volatility — Pick any descriptor … economic … financial market … political.

Wallets — Lighter these days for millions of people around the world after the Great Recession led to the loss of more than 50 million jobs globally. Hits to retirement funds and housing values globally hasn't helped either.

eXports — A bright spot of overall sluggish U.S. economic growth of the past 12 months, with nearly a 20% annual rise. Like it or not, a modestly weaker dollar has helped.

Young People (around the world) — Facing a rising tax burden in coming decades to finance the retirement years of Baby Boomers (and Boomers' parents) if minor changes are not soon made.

Zones (trading) — As before, Asian, European, and North American trade zones will dominate trade flows.

Jeff Thredgold is the chief economist for Zions Bank and founder of Thredgold Economic Associates, a professional speaking and economic consulting firm. Visit www.thredgold.com.

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