European states in the splash zone of the Greek debt crisis will almost certainly have to cut back on spending and raise taxes, triggering a double-dip recession throughout the European Union, and hurting US exports.
But what if Europe's debt disaster actually works out for the United States ... kind of? Tim Duy finds three reasons:
1. Capital Gains for the U.S. Scared investors are running from peripheral EU states that look like they could follow Greece into the abyss. (It's called the contagion effect: explanation here.) Running from Europe, investors might seek shelter in US investments, driving down our interest rates and giving companies looking to hire more access to capital. Duy concludes, "the odds of sustainable recovery look better
2. No Tightening from the Federal Reserve. Some liberals and moderates are concerned that the Federal Reserve might try to prematurely tighten its monetary policy by selling assets to squeeze inflation before we've achieved sustainable recovery and consistent job gains. But the crisis in Europe makes it more likely that the Federal Reserve will sit tight and keep money easy. After all, a Greece default -- which is all but certain -- could shock high-debt, low-growth states like Portugal and Spain and send jitters throughout the global economy. The Fed, nervous about feeding those fears, will probably keep interest rates low for an extended period of time with the European debt bomb ticking.
3. Cheap Oil. A weak Euro and a stop-start European economy means cheap oil, relief at the pump for the re-emerging American consumer, and marginally higher demand for cars. An exogenous oil shock helped to pop the housing bubble in the mid-2000s. Cheap gas is an economic lubricant.
In short, Duy suggests that the European debt crisis "puts a lid" on interest rates and oil prices. Cheap borrowing and cheaper oil won't offset a major debt tsunami if the European situation takes a turn for the worse and spooks banks and stock holders. But in the short term, the United States might reap the benefit of turmoil across the Atlantic.