Opinions about the financial crisis jolting world markets are mixed, but Abby Joseph Cohen, one of the most famous analysts on Wall Street, believes that 2009 will be a year of economic growth.
Participating in a panel on the future of the global economy at the Israeli Presidential Conference 2008, Joseph Cohen - the senior investment strategist at Goldman Sachs - said that the bank had foreseen trouble. Subprime loans to problem borrowers had become too cheap and too easy to obtain, she said, adding that the peak of the U.S. housing market was not three months ago or half a year ago, rather but six years ago.
Joseph Cohen, who has a history of bullish views, predicted Wednesday that U.S. GDP will contract in the second quarter of 2008, but that the economy will rebound in the following quarters.
American exports are growing by 8% to 10% a year, she pointed out, and that isn't only because the dollar is undervalued against the euro. No: The reason is the high added value of American products, she said. "We believe that 2009 will be a year of economic growth. It won't be 4%, but it will be positive," Joseph Cohen predicted.
In recent months the global investment community had sickened of risk and wanted none, unlike the previous two years, when the appetite for risk had been excessive, she explained. But when nobody will lend, the economy grinds to a halt.
Both U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Hank Poulson, the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, have been hinting that the worst seems to be behind us, Joseph Cohen said. That can't be said for sure, but things are getting better: Borrowers and lenders are getting back into action, Joseph Cohen summed up.
Her fellow panelist, International Monetary Fund Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, also believes that the worst has passed. But even if the developed economies manage to sustain brisk economic growth, they can't be decoupled from the U.S. economy and they can't be immune from its woes, he qualified.
If anything, Strauss-Kahn is concerned about accelerating global inflation. Climbing commodity prices, mainly of foodstuffs, will likely depress economic growth in emerging markets, including in African economies that had surged thanks to wise policies, he warned. One upshot is social unrest: The issues at stake aren't just economic and humanitarian, but touch on democracy as well, Strauss-Kahn said.
Walter Kohn, Chemistry Nobel Laureate of 1998, has been studying climate change and warned that warming is a global problem. Forget butterflies flapping their wings: When China emits greenhouse gases, people are affected in Israel, the U.S. and Timbuktu, he said. Climate is a unifying factor of mankind, Kohn noted, and it is the responsibility of us all to help in changing direction.
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