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Posts Tagged ‘consumer spending’

Is a Jobless Recovery a Recovery?

Posted by Larry Doyle on November 16th, 2009 2:20 PM |

Cartoon by Steve Breen, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Jobless recovery seems to be a phrase economists and analysts are using with increasing frequency. In my opinion, this usage is akin to a drug dealer or liar repeating his rationalizations to the point where he believes his own bulls%&t.

Are we to believe this economic subterfuge? I believe the American public buys into this rationalization at our peril. Why? Let’s navigate along the most important leg of our economic landscape.

Our unemployment rate currently stands at 10.2% while the underemployment rate is 17.5%. On the heels of the unemployment report released on November 6th (see my summary here), many analysts and economists revised their projections for unemployment to 11% and some as high as 14%.

Just today, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke in a speech at the Economic Club of New York highlighted the fact that the current excess supply of labor in our economy is even worse than indicated. Ponder that for a second. The lead banker in our nation is telling us that our unemployment situation is even worse than statistics would indicate. What does that mean? (more…)

“Grossly Distorted Product” or “Christmas in July”

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 30th, 2009 9:10 AM |

What is the real economy doing? While yesterday’s GDP printed a surprisingly strong 3.5%, are we to take that on face value? If we care to most effectively navigate the economic landscape, we should dig a little deeper.

A full 2.2% of the 3.5% rise was directly correlated to Uncle Sam’s support of the auto and residential construction sectors of the economy. Another .6% of the GDP was directly correlated to federal spending. Obviously, the Uncle Sam economy implies a large presence by that jolly old man. However, all that money Sam is pumping is nothing more than borrowing from future generations and pulling demand forward.

What would the economy have done on its own without the government support? Let’s listen to Christina Romer. Recall that Ms. Romer referenced last week that this quarter would provide the peak impact of benefits accruing from Uncle Sam’s economic stimulus. What does she say about this GDP report?  The Wall Street Journal references Ms. Romer in writing, Economy Snaps Long Slump:

Without stimulus programs such as “cash for clunkers” and a first-time homebuyer’s credit, “real GDP would have risen little, if at all, this past quarter,” Christina Romer, president of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in a statement.

Why does Ms. Romer provide that sobering view of the economy? Very simply, if the American consumer represents 70% of the economy, then we should largely focus on that consumer. What did we learn about the consumer over the last quarter?

The Financial Times’ John Auther informs us in writing, Short View: GDP Grows, but Pain Remains:

Household disposable incomes actually fell during the quarter, by 3.4 per cent, but consumer spending rose, also by 3.4 per cent. This is not a pattern that can be sustained for long, and it is inconsistent with the need for US families to pay down their debts.

What does that disparity between income and spending represent? An unsustainable economic path. What else does it mean? The U.S. economy just had “Christmas in July.”

Did you get anything in your stocking?

LD

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Is The Economy Turning The Corner?

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 21st, 2009 7:05 AM |

Markets correct by price (both up and down) and time (extended). Despite the 3+% price declines in equity markets yesterday, the markets are up approximately 20% since the market lows seen on March 6th. Some analysts believe this upward move signals an improvement in the economy largely due to the fiscal and monetary stimulus provided by Uncle Sam. I am not in that camp.

A few emerging economies, specifically China, have improved. Can the rest of the world, including the U.S., expect those economies to be the engine for a global turnaround at this juncture? I do not think so. I still see the following issues on our domestic horizon:

1. continued deterioration in loan performance on bank books

2. a banking system woefully capital deficient

3. an automotive industry which must downsize

4. municipalities which are faced with the predicamant of capital shortfalls and underfunded pensions

5. commercial real estate just starting to experience real defaults

6. a housing market with increased foreclosures pressuring prices

7. an unemployment rate clearly headed toward double digits

Earnings reports for the first quarter have been mixed. I view the recently reported bank earnings as largely “managed” via accounting gimmicks. Meredith Whitney believes the earnings for major money center banks will turn negative in the 2nd quarter. The regional banks, without the benefit of large capital market activities but facing credit writedowns, report earnings today. Key Corp just reported a loss of $1.09 eps (earnings per share) versus an estimate of -.21. I suspect we will see losses from other regional banks of a similar magnitude. (more…)






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