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Corn+Soybean Digest

Headwinds in the Economy: Part 1

The other day while I was out for my 4-mile running trek, some Northwest winds on the Great Plains made the jaunt much more difficult than I expected. The same can be said for the turnaround of the economy. The following are some headwinds or wind gusts that could make the earlier part of the next decade less than robust for the domestic and global economies.

Federal Debt
Current debt levels as a percent of GDP are historically high, with the exception of debt levels around the World War II time period. Much of this debt has been accumulated with little results, such as infrastructure or long-term investment in the economy.

Foreign Financials
Nearly 40% of new U.S. debt is being financed by foreign countries, which is a larger percentage compared to previous times. In time, these countries supplying financing for the U.S. are going to require accountability in debt servicing and management. A result could be higher risk, which could result in higher interest rates.

Quantitative Easing
Pick your poison: inflation or deflation. Government will err on the inflation side that requires printing money, which started intensely approximately a year ago. It will be surprising to see if inflation starts to raise its ugly head in 12-24 months.

Consumer Spending
The consumer accounts for 70% of U.S. economy. Currently consumers are saving more and seeking lower-cost items, i.e. discounting. Spending patterns are changing and until they return, do not expect inflation.

I will have more headwinds to watch for next week.

Editor’s note: Dave Kohl, Corn & Soybean Digest trends editor, is an ag economist specializing in business management and ag finance. He recently retired from Virginia Tech, but continues to conduct applied research and travel extensively in the U.S. and Canada, teaching ag and banking seminars and speaking to producer and agribusiness groups. He can be reached at sullylab@vt.edu.

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