Let's take a look at what some experts say about the economic outlook:
A lot of economists, including the government, believe the worst is behind us economically. Do you agree? If not, what should we be on the lookout for in 2011?
Jim Rogers: It is better for those getting all the government largesse, but the overall situation is worse. More currency turmoil. State and local problems, plus pension problems.
Bill Bonner: None of the problems that caused the crises in Europe and America have been resolved. They have been delayed and expanded by more debt and more money printing and will lead to more and worse crises. Deleveraging takes time. 2011 will, most likely, be a transition year...not unlike 2010. But the risk is that one of these latent crises will become an active crisis.
John Williams: An intensifying economic downturn – what formally will be viewed as the second dip of a double-dip depression – already has started to unfold. The problem with the economy remains structural, where household income is not growing fast enough to beat inflation, and where debt expansion – encouraged for many years by the Fed as a way to get around the economic growth problems inherent from a lack of income growth – generally is not available, as a result of the systemic solvency crisis. Accordingly, individual consumers, who account for more than 70% GDP, do not have the ability, and increasingly lack the willingness, to fuel the needed growth in consumption on which the US economy is so dependent.
Steve Henningsen: The governments worldwide (I don't pay much attention to economists) want us to believe that the worst is behind us because the financial system is built upon the foundation of trust and confidence. Both of these were battered badly when it was shown that much of the world's prosperity over the past few decades was simply a mirage that, once dispersed, left behind only debt with no means of future production. Now they want us to believe that they fixed the problem via more debt.
What I will be watching for this year is sovereign and US municipal debt corpses floating to the surface sometime in the months ahead.
Frank Trotter: Right now I have a somewhat dark but not dismal outlook. I think that over 2011, we will continue to experience a Jimmy Carter- style malaise that combines continuing high unemployment, tentative business investment, rising prices, low housing numbers when looked at on an absolute basis, and creeping interest rates.
As a very large mortgage servicer, we are not seeing significant improvements in payment patterns that would indicate the worst is fully behind us, and with mortgage rates moving upward, we see less ability for current mortgage holders to refinance and reduce payments.
Krassimir Petrov: No, the worst is yet to come. No structural changes have been made, no problems have been fixed. Printing money, a.k.a. Quantitative Easing, is a quick fix that has postponed the problem, yet also made it a lot worse. I would say that we are still in the early stages of the crisis and have another 4-8 years to go.
Price inflation is creeping up, but the enormous amount of money printing hasn't really hit the system yet. Does that happen in 2011, further down the road, or not at all?
Jim Rogers: It is happening. The US and CNBC lie about it. Most other countries do not lie and acknowledge it is worsening.
Bill Bonner: Most likely, substantial consumer price inflation will not show up in 2011. The explosion of money printing is being contained by the bomb squad of deleveraging. That will probably continue in 2011. But not forever.
John Williams: The problems of the money creation will become increasingly obvious in exchange-rate weakness of the US dollar. Related upside pricing pressure already is being seen on dollar- denominated commodities such as oil. There is high risk of consumer prices rising rapidly before year-end 2011, setting the stage for a hyperinflation. The outside date for the onset of a US hyperinflation is 2014.
Steve Henningsen: My guess is further down the road, as the deleveraging cycle continues with deflationary-housing winds in our face and the banks still hoarding money like my 9-year-old daughter stockpiles American Girl doll paraphernalia. I still expect inflation to continue in areas such as energy, bread, circuses, and whatever else provides sustenance to the Romans – I mean people.
Frank Trotter: Most research has shown that over time the increase in money supply is not a short-term economic stimulus, but rather has a moderate effect in the 18- to 36-month range. In addition, this theory contends that a growth in the monetary base – which is what has happened so far – only increases economic activity when accompanied by a decent multiplier; this is not occurring. The real risk is that with rising rates and continued soft economy, the Fed will feel obliged to continue to QE3, QE4, and so on, all of which may have a significant inflationary impact.
I am more concerned about general price inflation here in the US and the potential it has to reduce global growth.
Krassimir Petrov: This is a tough one. I would have thought that price inflation would have been raging by now, but this is obviously not the case. I have the feeling that 2011 will be a repeat of early 2008, with commodity prices (CRB) making new all-time highs. A falling dollar will trigger a rush into commodities as a hedge against inflation. I am really tempted to make a totally outrageous forecast that oil could make a run for $200 as QE3 unleashes another dollar scare, or maybe even a dollar crisis.