This week marked the third anniversary of the credit crunch. Not the market crash itself but the sudden spike in interbank lending rates that caused it.

It started with French Bank BNP Paribas freezing three hedge funds on August 9, 2007, and sparking a panic which temporarily froze short-term lending and sent rates soaring.

In the financial world things went downhill pretty fast from there. British bank Northern Rock was bailed out in September, United States investment bank Bear Stearns collapsed in March 2008, in September 2008 Lehman Brothers collapsed and all merry hell broke loose.

But that initial crunch three years ago was hardly registered by the general public. Although it was covered by the Business Herald and other financial media the great Kiwi property boom rolled on.

In fact, for many New Zealanders things kept on rolling even through the big market crash and the technical recession.

But now, anecdotally at least, it seems the pain is worse than ever out in the real world. Three years on from the crunch - and almost two years on from the crash - we are trapped in a feedback loop of market volatility and recovery that stops and starts more often than a test match with an English referee. A kind of long-term fatigue is setting in.

Businesses and many households (thanks to the long property boom) had good stores of capital to draw on in the first phase of the downturn. And in the beginning there was evasive action to be taken, plenty of fat to trim.

We learned to live in a lower-cost environment, managers could squeeze margins as shareholders reassessed earning expectations. Households tightened belts.

But this recovery is turning into an endurance race. Sadly the longer it runs the more we see good businesses which have done all they could start to falter and fall short of the finish line.

And where is that finish line? Nobody knows, but the dangers of assuming it is near are obvious. If the Western world does double-dip into recession we may even find ourselves running backwards for a while.

That's still looking unlikely and we shouldn't let this latest round of worse-than-expected data and market selling throw us off our stride.

The US markets in particular are a distraction, consistently rallying too far on good economic signs then crashing down when the next wave of data tells what we already knew - that the recovery is slow and difficult.

Many things have gone in our favour. Unemployment has stayed relatively low.

At 6.8 per cent for the March quarter it was worse than expected but nothing like the 11 per cent we saw after the last big recession in 1991.

And let's remember that "worse than expected" is seldom worse than what was actually expected at the time of the market crash.

China has propped up this part of the world thus far by keeping demand for commodities high.

Chinese growth is slowing and that will make things tougher again for Australia and New Zealand.

But it is slowing for the right reasons. The Chinese state has recognised it must slow down or crash.

Measures have been put in place to curb bank lending and property speculation and while they may knock a few points off China's GDP growth it is far better that should happen in an orderly manner.

Meanwhile the domestic economies of the West are still struggling through the ugly process of deleveraging. That is to say the process of paying down debt rather than spending on shiny new gadgets or investing in property.

Ultimately that will be a good thing too. It just doesn't feel good, particularly if you are in one of those industries still geared towards the days of unfettered consumer spending.

The events of three years ago this week have changed the world in ways we are just beginning to understand.

We are still living through the credit crunch. Our economy is still adapting to a world without easy credit. Those waiting for the world to return to normal may be still waiting three years from now - if they can survive that long.

Those who embrace the new normal of lower debt and lower growth may find there is still scope to be pleasantly surprised by the resilience of the global economy.

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