Picking through economic news this week (French and German growth numbers; financial market turmoil; scattered US indicators) and the vendor announcements from Dell, HP, Lenovo, NetApp, and Salesforce.com, four trends emerge:
European economies are headed for a recession, and European tech market is already in decline. Eurostat (The European Union statistical agency) announced on Tuesday, August 16, that real GDP in the 17 euro area countries and the 27 European countries both grew by just 0.2% in the second quarter of 2011 from the first quarter. Annualizing these growth rates to make them comparable with US GDP growth rates, the numbers were 0.8%. France's real GDP showed no growth, while Germany's real growth was o.4% on an annualized basis. These were sharp slowdowns from France's growth of 3.6% in Q1 and Germany's growth of 5.3%. With worries growing about a financial crisis hitting European banks as a result of potential losses on their holdings of Greek, Portuguese, Irish, Italian, and Spanish bonds, ongoing government austerity programs in these countries as well as the UK, and feeble EU efforts to deal with the problems, there is a high probability that Europe will slip into recession in Q3 and Q4 2011.
The financial news from the US and Europe – the messy resolution of the US debt ceiling impasse and the related downgrade of US government securities, the sharply higher prices for Spanish and Italian debt after inadequate response to the latest Greek debt crisis, and the big drops in stock markets on Monday – will certainly weaken the economic growth prospects of both the US and Europe. We anticipated much of this two weeks ago, both before the US debt ceiling was raised at the 11th hour along with a makeshift deficit reduction plan (see my blog on July 28, 2011) and after the news of much lower US economic came out on Friday (see my blog on July 29, 2011). In fact, the resolution to the debt ceiling issue was slightly better than we expected (no default, and in interim deficit reduction that cut only $21 billion in fiscal year 2012 starting in October 2011) while the US economic outlook in Q2 2011 and earlier was quite a bit worse. The big surprise was S&P's downgrade of US securities from AAA to AA+. While that downgrade was not copied by the other rating agencies and in fact had no impact today on the prices of US treasury securities, it had a big psychological impact. Along with the bad news coming out of Europe after interest rates on Spanish and Italian debt spiked, the S&P downgrade triggered the 600 point or so drop in the Dow Jones Industrial index today, following a 500-point fall on Friday. The result of all these events at best will mean very weak growth in both the US and Europe in the rest of 2011 and well into 2012; at worse, it increases the risk of a renewed recession.