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Professor Robert Shiller Warns Britain May Suffer A Double Recession

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One of the world's most influential economists warns today that Britain faces the prospect of two recessions in quick succession.

Robert Shiller, Professor of Economics at Yale University, said that the recent stock market bounce should be treated with caution.

He likened the current sense of optimism to a marital row. “You don't know whether the argument with your wife is really over or not. Is the problem something that your spouse will bring up again, and again?”

The apparent upturn could soon go into reverse, he told The Times, marking a repeat of economic patterns in the 1930s and the 1980s. Such a double-dip slowdown has been nicknamed by economists a “W-shaped” recession, where recovery is so fragile, the country could be plunged into another slowdown as soon as it emerged from the last.

Since March the stock market has rebounded by 27 per cent, raising hopes that the recession may not be as severe and protracted as many economists had feared. Some have interpreted the recent rally as a sign that the banking system - which imploded after Lehman Brothers, the US investment bank, went bust in September - has stabilised and that confidence is returning.

Last week Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, brushed aside doubts that his Budget forecasts had been overoptimistic and predicted that the recession would be over by Christmas. Many economists in the City believe that Britain will stagnate until the end of 2010 and that unemployment will continue to rise well after that.

Speaking to The Times this week, Professor Shiller said: “I was last here [in London] in the fall and there is definitely a sense of optimism now. The Fed [uS central bank] and the Bank of England seem to have things under control. Everything seems to be getting better.”

However, he warned that “there is a real possiblity of another recession. We may well see more bad news. It is a real failure of the imagination to think otherwise.”

He said that there were a number of issues that threatened any long-term recovery for the British economy - rising unemployment, mortgage defaults, and another wave of new company failures that “could surprise us yet”.

Professor Shiller also said that the banks were still harbouring large portfolios of troubled assets.

“We all want to lick this problem — there's been a burst of confidence over the last few months, but really it's not based on any news. A lot of people think this recession is coming to an end. But I'm not so sure. A resurgence in confidence may not translate into new jobs. We are still in uncertain times.”

He added: “In 1931 in the US, President Hoover unveiled his recovery plan - there was a huge stock market rally — the market improved but it didn't hold because bad news kept coming in. Increased confidence can be a self-fulfilling prophecy but it doesn't always hold.”

Professor Shiller said, however, that he believed another likely scenario to be one where Britain would face a continuous decline with house prices falling for a number of years, drawing comparisons with the decade of misery in Japan in the 1990s.

The economist became well known when he predicted the timing of the end of the dot-com boom in March 2000, and was one of the first to warn that the US housing market was perilously overvalued and that its collapse would cause devastating reverberations across the world's biggest economy.

Professor Shiller has been in London this week promoting his book Animal Spirits. How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why it Matters for Global Capitalism, in which he argues that our own psychology and emotions, such as envy and resentment, drive house prices, debt levels and share values.

His co-author is George Akerlof, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2001. In the book, they argue: “What had the people been thinking? Why did they not notice until real events — the collapse of banks, the loss of jobs, mortgage foreclosures — were already upon us. The public, the Government and most economists had been reassured by an economic theory that said that we were safe. It was all OK.

“But that theory was deficient. It had ignored the importance of ideas in the conduct of the economy. It had also ignored the fact that people could be unaware of having boarded a rollercoaster.”


Robert Shiller predicted that the internet bubble would burst in March 2000. Weeks before the boom ended, when the Dow Jones industrial average was about 11,000 points, he published Irrational Exuberance. He argued that market valuations were unsustainable, likening the phenomenon to a Ponzi scheme on steroids. As the bubble burst, Wall Street stocks dropped 20 per cent in 16 months.

The phrase “irrational exuberance” to describe the fevered stock market was adopted by Alan Greenspan, the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Professor Shiller was also among the first to warn about the US housing boom, telling investors that high property prices could not last. He said that the impact of the housing crisis could be so great that it might bring down a key financial institution. Within weeks, Lehman Brothers had gone bust, while mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the world’s largest insurer AIG had to be bailed out with billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.

I've not heard of the W shaped recovery

Edited by Ash4781

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Double bubble trouble

Check out my avatar :lol:

If you zoom in really close, you can just make the text out on top. It says "America's Original".

Bought that bubble gum in the states. Got to be true! :blink:

Edited by mbga9pgf

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Robert Shiller, Professor of Economics at Yale University

pfft - what does he know. Gordon Brown said the UK is well placed to weather the downturn and expects the recession will be over in time for him to win at the next election.

Ducks to avoid low flying pig

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A "W" shaped recovery is just a normal boom bust cycle like all the others, peaks and troughs, troughs and peaks.

"I predict tomorrow the sun will rise in the morning and set in the evening." qouted as saying professor Jimmy2Times from The London School of Stating the Bleeding Obvious.

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Why is anyone surprised this rollercoaster still has a way to go down? Ireland is officially in depression: 10% gdp lost, 70% off ISEQ, possibly 25% real unemployment next year. Then there's Iceland, Spain, Greece, eastern Europe, etc, etc. The ball is bust; game over.

Edited by carbonoid

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How long can the low base rate be maintained? If it rises will it snuff out any green shoots?

there are NO real green shoots only made up ones

real green shoots won't exist for at least a decade regardless of what the politicians and VI say.

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The mainstream economists didn't see the blowup coming.. and they don't seem to have any clue of where we are now. Their models say things that are completely detached from the real world.

Lets worry about this recession, probable depression first.. and finding the economic solutions to get out of it. Before we worry about a possible future recession.

Right now the only real solution I've seen is QE, and so far although the countries doing QE, are fairing better than nations who are not doing QE.. no one is yet out of the woods remotely. The best that can be said is they've stopped the rate of acceleration downwards.

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The mainstream economists didn't see the blowup coming.. and they don't seem to have any clue of where we are now. Their models say things that are completely detached from the real world.

Well what do you expect with politicians around?

Economists start tracking a figure, like inflation or unemployment then politicians do everything they can to make this figure look good by lying.

No mathematical model would ever work under those circumstances.

take 5+7

fairly easy until you realise that the 5 has really dropped from being a 5 to a 3 for the last 6 years and then 7 is actually an upside 1 in a funny font.

E=MC2 is a nice truth about how the universe works but if you decide to feed in arbitrary random numbers most of the time it is completely useless to predict anything other than a wrong answer or a headache.

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