No one really wants to believe the "doom and gloom" predictions of Lord Rees-Mogg and touring consultant William Houston. So it is dispiriting to find that even Robin Griffiths, head of technical analysis at the reputable James Capel, won't debunk the stories. Griffiths himself quotes Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter who predicted in the 1930s that the next market crash would come in 1984-1988. It did of course. And what we are seeing now, says Griffiths, is the 90s equivalent of a depression: it may look different because of our shift from a farming/industrial base to a service economy, but the shrinkage of spending is the same. Adding to the confusion, he says, is the fact that the stock market has become uncoupled from reality. Governments have dropped interest rates and pushed money into the system, but consumers, instead of spending, have invested partly in shares - thus the market's unjustified resilience. Griffiths expects it will take four years for the credit contraction to turn around, though there may be false signals enroute. GNP growth could even hit 4% again - but then dip down. Even US weather forecaster Dr Iben Browning's predictions of crop failures and higher food prices are backed by Griffiths. "Browning is not a nut case," he testifies. And certainly nor are those who make a mint quoting him.
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