The economy’s white knight

There’s been a lot of talk about what will pull the world economy out of the funk it entered a year ago.

Most of the focus has been on the U.S. consumer and what they can do to pull us out of our economic malaise. After all, consumer spending is usually 60%-70% of the economy.

Others, instead, focus on the governments of the world, whether U.S., Chinese or European. To this way of thinking, the economies of the world have come off the tracks, and only government can get them back on the again and moving forward.

But, I think this misses the most likely source of future economic growth: businesses.

Consumers are tapped out, they have to pay off debt and build up savings. Most governments are tapped out, too, they are simply borrowing from others in hopes that spending now will produce growth sooner rather than later. The financial sector, which can usually spur growth with lending and investment, is even more highly in debt than consumers or governments, so they don’t seem likely to be the impetus for growth.

Businesses, on the other hand, are in relatively good shape. Businesses faced a very tough recession in 2000-2002, and they have since lowered their debt and learned to react quickly and decisively to tougher economic times. They tend to be leaner and more flexible than they were a decade ago, and many have large cash hordes they can put to work.

In my opinion, this is where growth will come from sooner than any other place. In fact, I believe it’s already happening.

Now that demand seems to be stabilizing, businesses will start hiring again. The U.S. economy needs to shift from a consumption to a production focus. China needs to shift from a production to a consumption focus. Businesses will lead the way in this shift because they will see the most profitable ways to benefit from the new landscape. The smart businesses, the lean and flexible ones who see the future first, will expand production and meet business demand first. They will then have the profits to hire and expand more. And, thus, the upward cycle will grow and expand.

This will not happen quickly. Production won’t go from 30% of the U.S. economy to 50% overnight. And, 30% of the economy will not make up for the 70% of consumption all at once. It will be a slow, steady growth that will build a more stable, more production focused economy.

This will be a good thing. For, as Jean-Baptiste Say said almost 200 years ago, supply creates its own demand. Production, after all, must precede consumption–you can’t consume what hasn’t been produced. Having an economy more focused on production than consumption will grow more steadily and resiliently.

The economy’s white knight is riding to the rescue, and below the radar of almost everyone. Businesses will lead the way.

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.