Is Max Walsh the Chicken Little of Australian journalism?

For those who read The Bulletin, it’s difficult to escape this conclusion after reading almost any one of Walsh’s Bottom Line columns. A quick perusal of his columns over the past year is distinctly depressing, with a continuous flow of predictions of recession, stockmarket meltdown, vulnerable resource stocks, grim outlooks and inflation monstors:

5/12: “The current surge in highly leveraged takeovers, coming on top of heavily indebted households, threatens a repeat of the 1987 stockmarket meltdown.”

7/11: “Recession may be hovering over the US but Australia could escape the fallout via heavy investment in China.” 6/11: “Drought has highlighted the economic shockwaves of global warming but Australian governments are dragging the chain on effective corrective action.” 10/10: “Just how much of that shareholder pain can be ascribed to Sol Trujillo’s managerial competence as distinct from what might be called the Sol Trujillo factor?” 19/9: “When money becomes cheap, risk-taking explodes. Buyer beware: the fallout for small investors will be severe.” 12/9: “The IMF and futures markets are warning that our minerals export boom is vulnerable. Around the world, experts are saying the bull run is over.”  22/8: “An energy turning point has arrived as demand outstrips supply. For the next decade, at least, governments will face a continuing crisis – and LPG is merely a quick fix.” 15/8: “The wealth of individual Australians may be about to go backwards, which is usually an ominous signal of a change of government.” 8/8: “Easy money and low interest rates – not bananas – are threatening to unchain the global inflation monster.”  25/7: “As Israel and Lebanon lit the fuse to the Middle Eastern powderkeg, financial markets have dived. The focus is purely economic, and the outlook is grim.” 18/7: “The future of the world economy now hangs on uncontrollable events – the rise in energy prices and the impact of climate change.” 11/7: “Central banks are now juggling interest rates and financial imbalances as the world economy walks a tight-rope. A spectacular fall cannot be ruled out.” 27/6: “While the IMF is making rosy predictions for the world, there is a danger that rising interest rates in the United States will kick off a global domino effect.”  20/6: “Kim Beazley could parlay a global oil shock into a lucky election win. Unfortunately, it would mean luck had run out for the rest of us.” 13/6: “China’s fast-growing pollution crisis threatens to undermine global prosperity.” 6/6: “Central banks may be opting for a price-stabilising tack but global markets are spooked for the long haul.” 9/5: “Oil prices continue to rise because of global political instability – bringing ever closer the day when governments will seize control of energy supplies.” 11/4: “The price of crude oil has nearly doubled during the past two years. By past metrics, a price increase of this magnitude constitutes an oil shock. On the three previous occasions when this phenomenon has been seen there have been economic slowdowns leading to recessions in most developed countries.”  14/3: “Rumblings in Reykjavik last week proved just how nervous currency markets are. And with Japanese interest rates set to rise, the anxiety levels aren’t likely to decrease.” 7/2: “The new oil cold war – US versus China.” 18/1 The markets have shrugged off one of our worst trade deficit results, but such complacency could leave us at the mercy of increasingly volatile global forces. 7/12/05 When political risk is mentioned in terms of investment strategies, we instinctively think third world. That’s where political instability can lead to sudden changes of government and policies. It’s also where political incompetence can lead to fiscal crises, debt defaults and ­currency ­collapses.  The rest can be found here. We had to stop after 25 columns as there just didn’t seem much point in going on … with anything.

Peter Fray

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