This week I was trying to get my head what the weak retails sales report for December and the currency freak-out by Switzerland says about the prospective of 2015 US economic growth. Although everyone seems happy about the US economy and jobs I am getting a little worried. This health care driven economy has very short coat tails when you compare it to the more traditional housing driven economy and there is no better example of this than weak retails sales for December despite lower gasoline prices. Despite good GDP growth, good employment numbers, and positive consumer sentiment, the consumer is not spending on goods. The weak retail sales numbers supports a speculation I made in a previous post that the Affordable Care Act is primarily wealth redistribution and every additional dollar spent in health care is a dollar subtracted from retail sales.
Then we have the currency freak-out by Switzerland. As the European Union crisis has deepened, demand for the Swiss Franc has risen. As the Quartz article, Absolutely everything you need to understand what happened to the Swiss franc this week, explains:
A strong franc hurts the Swiss because it makes their exports more expensive for foreign buyers, and the country has a giant export sector.
In the case of Switzerland, exports account for 72.2% of their GDP. To protect Swiss exports In September 2011, the Swiss National Bank set a limit on the amount of strength it would tolerate. Last week they gave up and let the Swiss Franc float. Swiss exporters and the financial markets were not amused. Even though Switzerland is not part of the European Union they have been drug into the European Union problems and have increased the likelihood of a Swiss recession.
The United States has a strong currency but the US economy is not nearly as dependent on exports as Switzerland or Germany. Unfortunately the effects on export dependent companies in the US is the same as it is in Switzerland. When you combine the export weakness with the expected weakness in the oil sector and auto sales, you have to wonder where the retail sales demand will come from. If European deflation is almost a certainty then can the US be far behind. Switzerland is one of the best managed economies in the world and they gave up the currency fight. When you combine weak retail sales, oil demand, auto sales, and housing demand with deflation worries, it makes me wonder how this health care driven economy can grow 3% in 2015.