Unemployment, which jumped to a 26-year high of 10.2% in October, will continue to be a dark cloud looming over the U.S. economy through at least next year, according to World Bank President Robert Zoellick.
"If you have large-scale unemployment remain, say about [the] 10% level you have in the U.S., you're going to see feedback effects," Zoellick is quoted by Bloomberg News as saying. His comments are hardly a surprise.
People are going to watch their wallets as they do their holiday shopping, looking for bargains on anything from apparel to consumer electronics. Any recovery in the housing market is bound to be muted because only a crazy person would acquire property if he is worried about job security. Plus, tighter credit standards are continuing to put a crimp in home sales.
Speaking to reporters in Singapore, Zoellick argued that there will continue to be problems with delinquent credit cards, consumer loans and, of course, mortgages. In some ways, the timing of his statement is curious. Last month, he noted that U.S. economic power was declining because of the financial crisis. But there's plenty of good news that Zoellick may be ignoring.
For instance, Wednesday morning Macy's Inc. (M) reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss and raised its outlook. On Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average hit its highest level of the year. In August, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the U.S. was on the cusp of a recovery. There are many signs that the economy is improving -- albeit at a glacial pace -- though not everyone is impressed.
Another pessimist is, of course, Nouriel "Dr. Doom" Roubini. As my colleague, Mark Fightmaster, noted on BloggingStocks, Roubini is as worried as ever about the U.S. economy.
"Roubini contends that while there was a massive rally in 'all sorts of risky assets,'" Fightmaster writes, "these risky assets...are equities, oil, energy, and commodity. Dr. Doom believes that the prices for these assets have risen too far and too fast compared to macroeconomic fundamentals."
Investors, for now, are ignoring the pessimists and hoping that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The trouble is -- it could just be a train.
Is the World Bank's Zoellick too pessimistic about the U.S.?