The major investment banks have changed their minds about the potential for Asia to ‘decouple’ from any credit-crunch induced downturn in the West.
Originally, they had believed that domestic demand in China and elsewhere would enable the Asian economy to sail ahead, no matter what happened elsewhere. I was a bit sceptical of this hypothesis, after my recent visit to the region. And now Bloomberg reports that both Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have changed their minds.
Typical of the new realism is the comment from Morgan Stanley’s Chairman in Asia, Stephen Roach that ‘decoupling is a good story, but it's not going to work going forward’. He sees the region’s economy being badly affected ‘as the US slowdown goes from housing to consumption’. Whilst Goldman also now believe that ‘what began as a US-specific shock is morphing into a global shock’.
China's global manufacturing lead is focused on housing-related products such as refrigerators, microwaves and DVDs, as well as textiles and related products. These are also all areas of strong demand for chemicals/polymers.
And as I noted recently in ‘A dip or a downturn?’, it looks as though the pace of Asian growth is already slackening, as a result of the downturn is western housing markets. 2008 could well be a difficult year in Asia, as elsewhere.