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Known Unknowns: 2013-2018

ZeroHedge's article ‘Key Global Event Risks for the Next Five Years (The Known Unknowns)’ highlights the potential events over the next five years that could change the course of the global economy. Every major political election is listed according to its region. Also listed are the meetings of every major central bank and international summit in 2013.

Downside Risks

European Union Exits Never an enthusiastic member, the UK is at the top of the exit list. According to the Guardian's website survey this month, 56% of Britons would vote to leave the EU in a referendum. CBI president Sir Roger Carr warns that ‘isolating’ British industry would be disastrous for UK business while Labour leader Ed Milliband’s warned that Eurosceptics are ‘sleepwalking’ Britain into leaving the EU. Ed Milliband called the growing euroscepticism in the Conservative party ‘dangerous for the country and dangerous for business’. He stressed the importance of the single market as British businesses do 60% of their trade with the EU. He added that Britain would have much less gravitas when negotiating with superpowers like the United States and China and be left in ‘the overflow room’ if they exited the EU. Although David Cameron has said that he 'would never campaign for an “out” vote in a referendum', he wants to agree a 'new settlement' with the EU with powers returned to Britain.

China Hard Landing At a US business forum earlier this year, incoming President Xi Jinping said that "2012 will be a crucial year in driving the 12th five-year plan. China's economy will maintain stable growth ... there will be no so-called hard landing." Certainly, China’s recent data suggest that China’s hands landing (i.e. four consecutive quarters of less than 5% growth) fears are unfounded. A lower than expected inflation rate, climbing levels of industrial production and growing level of retail sales indicate a very positive outlook. However, some economists are still questioning whether an export-dependent economy in a depressed international environment can maintain an annual growth of 7-10%. Also, China’s undervalued Yuan and its dependency on the US may catch up with the Republic.

US Fiscal Cliff With potentially more than $500 billion in spending cuts and tax increases, the Fiscal Cliff has been at the centre of American politics and business. Negotiations seem to be positive as Democrats and Republicans seem to be working together (although a higher tax for wealthier Americans is still a point of contention). Also, businesses seem to be confident that America's recovery will trudge through this fiscal nightmare. With 'taxmaggeddon' and fiscal cliff countdowns flashing on television screens in America, it seems America is headed for a self-inflicted economic meltdown at the end of this year. However, Warren Buffett, who President Obama is reported to have called to discuss the fiscal cliff, told CNN that lawmakers could have as much as a couple of months next year to reach a deal.

Geopolitical Tension

Upside Risks

European Crisis Resolution German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for ambitious solutions to solve the Euro crisis earlier this month. Although still far from a definitive solution, some progress has been made with a potential Greek deal on the horizon.

Aggressive China Easing China’s inflation is at its lowest rate in nearly three years at 1.7% this November. This may give China’s policymakers more flexibility to ease their monetary policy. However, policy makers in China are keeping an eye on house prices that seem to be heating up. Chinese authorities continue to be cautious as indicated by the People’s Bank of China decision not to cut the reserve requirement ratio (RRR).

Repair of US Confidence The green shoots of recovery are surprisingly strong in the United States. This month showed a steady rise in home sales, increasing levels of employment and equity markets are picking up. Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Jim O’Neill said that "China and the U.S. are both improving, which is extremely good news.” “If we could pretend Europe and Japan didn’t exist, the world would be fine.”

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