The Economist: Danger time for America

Via the New Economist:

As a result of weaker job creation than usual and sluggish real wage growth, American incomes have increased much more slowly than in previous recoveries. According to Morgan Stanley, over the past four years total private-sector labour compensation has risen by only 12% in real terms, compared with an average gain of 20% over the comparable period of the previous five expansions. Without strong gains in incomes, the growth in consumer spending has to a large extent been based on increases in house prices and credit.

When house-price rises flatten off, and therefore the room for further equity withdrawal dries up, consumer spending will stumble. Given that consumer spending and residential construction have accounted for 90% of GDP growth in recent years, it is hard to see how this can occur without a sharp slowdown in the economy.

The big question is whether the rest of the world will slow too. The good news is that growth is becoming more broadly based, as demand in the euro area and Japan has been picking up, and fears about an imminent hard landing in China have faded. America kept the world going during troubled times. But now it is time for others to take the lead.

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