The ART Of Business

A Replay of the 2008 Crisis?

In the hype-driven, 24/7 news cycle of our time, 36 months ago could as well be 36 years.

We might forget that in early 2008, food and oil prices were skyrocketing all over the globe.

And, despite this, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had 14,000- and maybe even higher- in its sights.

Except for higher prices at the pump, most Americans, including those in the media and Washington, were oblivious to the coming storm.

People in developing countries that were dependent upon more expensive agricultural imports first began to hoard food; soon realized they afford couldn’t it anyway; and, then rioted.

$4 a gallon gasoline in the U.S. began to put a major dent in the critical consumer-spending segment of the industrialized world. Near panic spread across emerging markets, where the cost of cooking fuel starting getting out of reach.

This slowdown in global economic activity preceded the financial crisis, which hit in September of that year, and may have very well been the tipping point.

We'll have to wait for the economic historians to tell us to be sure.

Now fast-forward three years later, where food prices are at the highest they have ever been in the modern era and oil is again surging past $100 a barrel.

In Egypt, the world’s biggest importer of wheat, the government is set to fall. Tunisia, another large importer of grain, has already thrown out its old regime. Strains are also showing in rural India and China, where food hoarding is becoming widespread.

Are these mere coincidences?

Still, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is clicking along, having passed 12,000. And, like before, most in the media and Washington have “their heads in the sand”, believing the worst is behind us.

As food and oil supplies have become truly globalized in recent years, we are unable to off-load risk on some unsuspecting entity.

We will all bear the brunt of this, whether in Cleveland, Chongqing, Chennai, or Cairo.

Might we be seeing a replay of 2008? Let’s hope not. We know how that year ended up.

TAGS: Supply Chain
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