Fiscal Cliff and Other Economic Factors May Converge into Global Worst Case Scenario, IHS Warns

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 1:06 pm EST


"The U.S. economy stands at the precipice, with tax cuts expiring and federal spending cuts triggered by the Budget Control Act of 2011 set to commence at the start of 2013"

IHS (NYSE: IHS) has released its Worst Case Scenario  economic outlook, which includes a potential plunge off the fiscal cliff, that, together with additional global factors, would send the U.S. economy into recession and cause the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) to contract for the first time since 2009.

The fiscal cliff is just one of several global events analyzed in the IHS worst-case scenario outlook for 2013, which also incorporates degradation of the Eurozone, conflict escalation in the Middle East and a hard landing in China. The IHS Worst Case Scenario research is predicated on a confluence of these events happening in succession, significantly impacting global demand and commodity prices in 2013.
Triggering a global worst-case scenario

“The U.S. economy stands at the precipice, with tax cuts expiring and federal spending cuts triggered by the Budget Control Act of 2011 set to commence at the start of 2013,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS.

If the United States federal government fails to resolve the fiscal cliff and the other plausible events unfold -- including a surge in oil prices caused by escalating Mideast conflict, the rapid departure of six countries from the Eurozone and a significant slow-down of China’s economy -- such a worst-case scenario could see U.S. economic output drop during the first two quarters of the year and real GDP would subsequently contract by 1.7 percent in 2013 -- a sharp contrast from the baseline forecast.  Other countries would fare much worse under this scenario, with some countries, including Italy and Spain, seeing more than a 4 percent decline in 2013.  

Real GDP Growth in the United States, Baseline and Worst Case Scenario

The Cliff

In a plausible worst case scenario, the fall off the fiscal cliff and the onset of recession will demolish equity values and boost bond prices. The Federal Reserve will likely respond by adding more stimulus, however, this will be ineffective against the magnitude of the fiscal contraction.

Given the magnitude of this potential disaster, it’s hard to imagine the U.S. government will allow it to continue for very long.  At some point—likely three to six months into the year—the economic pain and political damage will become too acute. One or both parties will blink, and a settlement will result. In this scenario, IHS assumes that the Bush tax cuts will be partially restored.

Meanwhile, sequestered funds for defense spending may be reinstated by July 2013 as international tensions increase—perhaps related to new hostilities in the Middle East.  A solution by mid-2013 will be too late, serving only to mitigate damage, with the worldwide economy already heading into a severe recession.  The unraveling of these volatile, inter-dependent events make up the underlying assumptions central to a possible worse-case scenario that would be catastrophic to world markets.

The IHS worst-case scenario does not revise the IHS baseline forecast for the U.S. economy or the impact of the fiscal cliff.  Instead, it provides comprehensive insight, analysis, and outlooks that are specific to market performance should all factors contributing to a worst-case scenario unfold.

U.S. not alone

There are plenty of implications for the United States, but these are worsened by the interconnected and interdependent nature of global markets – intricate dependencies contributing to a worse-case scenario. Catastrophes including a chaotic breakup of the Eurozone and a hard landing in China play a significant role in any potential for marketplace calamity.

“While the U.S. fiscal cliff is in the spotlight and is certainly a major cause for concern, the turbulent exit of six countries from the Eurozone is a critical situation to monitor for its near-term implications on marketplace upheaval, while a China hard landing is a dominant factor threatening medium- and long-term results,” added Sara Johnson, senior global economics research director at IHS.

In the wake of such events, global corporations of all sizes will struggle to perform and could face a critical inflection point determining their future success or failure. Each industry could witness shocking market exits, not unlike the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, in which cutting production and reducing costs ran rampant as a reactionary survival strategy rippling throughout supply chains.

IHS Worst Case Scenario Forecasts & Analysis

The IHS Worst Case Scenario report provides analysis and forecasts that will help companies maximize potential in the wake of a worst-case scenario. The Worst Case Scenario framework provides commodity and industry implications for key economies around the world based upon the assumptions of the U.S. going off the fiscal cliff in 2013; a chaotic break-up of the Eurozone; a hard landing in China; and escalating conflict in the Middle East.

For more information, please visit

About IHS (
IHS (NYSE: IHS) is the leading source of information, insight and analytics in critical areas that shape today’s business landscape. Businesses and governments in more than 165 countries around the globe rely on the comprehensive content, expert independent analysis and flexible delivery methods of IHS to make high-impact decisions and develop strategies with speed and confidence. IHS has been in business since 1959 and became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange in 2005. Headquartered in Englewood, Colorado, USA, IHS is committed to long-term, sustainable growth and employs more than 6,000 people in more than 30 countries around the world.

IHS is a registered trademark of IHS Inc. All other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners. Copyright © 2012 IHS Inc. All rights reserved.