Pessimistic Europeans, optimistic Americans

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Lex Hoogduin, chief economist for the big Dutch money manager Robeco (and columnist for Het Financieele Dagblad) stopped by this morning. Among the things he said was that when he makes a presentation in the U.S., he usually gets questions that seem aimed making him come out with a sunnier forecast than he really means to. In Germany, on the other hand, “after every presentation somebody comes up to me and says he’s sold all his equities or wants to know if he should.”

Hoogduin posits that this relative difference in optimism is a source of competitive advantage for the U.S. economy. He said he thinks continental Europe will mostly catch up with the big productivity gains that the U.S. made over the past decade as governments get smarter about employment policy and companies get smarter about using IT, but that the continent’s “risk aversion” and pessimism will continue to hold it back at least a bit.

He’s certainly not the first person to say this. But it’s still an argument worth pondering, once we’re all done celebrating that amazing 3.9% third quarter GDP growth number, the Fed’s rate cut, and the all-around wonderfulness of everything.