What the hell is going on here? I’ve got a business to run, and it’s really annoying that I can’t sort out whether we’re in the early stages of recovery or on the cusp of another train wreck. When Dad taught me to drive, he had to keep saying “Don’t look at where you are but where you’re going.” Good advice. Yet only as long as I look at the road right in front of me do I feel OK. If my eyes wander to the horizon, I get really itchy.
This recovery feels very brittle. Oh, sure, transactional activity is way up. If Dechert’s practice is the first derivative of the broader capital markets (and I think it is), then things have been getting progressively more robust for the better part of a year now. We’re growing, we’re hiring, deals are coming in at a goodly pace. Yet, everyone I know with the slightest capacity for reflection is touchy, to say the least.
So let’s do a S.W.O.T. analysis of where we sit.
First, our Strengths and Opportunities:
• We’re coming out of the deepest and most torturous recession in 70 years. The financial markets came close to collapsing, credit evaporated, the U.S. housing market went into a tailspin and commercial real estate values dropped between 30% and 40%. But things are demonstrably getting better. All downturns end and are followed by sustained periods of recovery, right?
• Interest rates are at insanely low levels. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around a one-month LIBOR of 20 bps and ten-year Treasury below three percent.
• Bank balance sheets have repaired (some), the financial market has crept back from the edge of oblivion. There’s money to be lent.
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