2012 Economic Outlook: Why Things Are Better Than We Think

Years from now, when we look back at 2011, it may be remembered as one of the best worst years of the early 21st century. You’d be hard-pressed to come up with an extended period where people were more negative, yet remarkably, in the United States at least, not much actually happened. A summer debt impasse looked dramatic but in the end was resolved, and markets went up and down wildly yet ended largely where they started or better. Judged by every major economic indicator, it was the most stable period in a long while, with every sign that 2012 will be better yet. There is only one not-so-small problem: almost no one believes it.

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How Bad Is It? Greece, Panic and the Crisis of Confidence

The Greek debt crisis finally spilled over in full force to U.S. markets, aided and abetted by extreme statements emanating from such esteemed and prominent voices as Muhammed El-Erian of the large bond investor Pimco, who warned that Greece could be just the beginning of sovereign debt catastrophes. In the space of minutes, the major U.S. indices plunged more than 10%, fueled by the same programmatic electronic trades that were part of the battering in late 2008 into 2009. And then in the space of 15 minutes, they recovered, without — it’s fair to say — much human decision-making during that interval (and if an individual even tried trading during those 30 minutes, they would have found it difficult or impossible, as web sites such as schwab.com were completely overwhelmed with traffic).

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