If Everything Is So Good, Why Am I Feeling So Bad?

Econophile's picture

From The Daily Capitalist

The markets behave as if everything is just fine. This week the S&P 500 was up 7.3% for the month (from 1027 to 1102), corporate earnings have been looking good, retail sales inched up last week, the CPI is low, interest rates are low, Dr. Bernanke is ready to pump money into the economy if things go awry, most European banks passed their stress test, and we've got a new financial markets regulation bill which will save us from economic collapse.

Yet most folks don't believe things are getting any better. What's wrong?

Here's some data I gathered for the week of economic reports that might shed some light on the topic:

The U of Michigan's consumer sentiment index crashed: it dropped from the June high of 76 to a mid-July reading of 66.5. About 10 points. This could mean that consumers are pulling back, according to the data.

The latest Conference Board's Index of Leading Indicators turned negative, down 0.2% in June. In May it was up 0.6%. According to my report, if you take the interest rate spread out of their index, it would have fallen 0.6%. (See Leading Indicators Have Turned South.)

New jobless claims for the week of July 17 jumped 37,000 to 464,000 from 427,000 in the prior week. The four week moving average also declined by11,750 to 455,250, the lowest level since mid May.

Corporate earnings have been good; so far three-quarters of companies have beat estimates. For example Ford reported a 13% gain in earnings for Q2. Up-selling and cost cutting seemed to do the trick. Which lies at the heart of the problem: revenues tend to be tame and gains are coming from efficiencies. It's a mixed bag, so it's difficult to generalize here. Oil, autos, technology, and exporters did well. The key to any sustained recovery will be consumer spending.

Which gets me to payrolls. The state-by-state report from the Labor Department showed that payrolls decreased in 27 states, including the biggest, California and New York. Some 16 states had unemployment in excess of 10%. We'll have to wait for the next unemployment reports to sort this out, but it seems that we aren't adding net jobs.

What consumers are doing is paying down debt. According to an American Banker report, a "handful" of mid-size banks (KeyCorp, Huntington Bancshares Inc. and M&T Bank Corp.) are experiencing a surge in loan paydowns without experiencing an increase in lending. While this improves credit quality it doesn't help their longer-term loan book. I see this as a good thing, part of a necessary deleveraging process, it shows us where consumers are putting their money. It's the biggest raise they can give themselves: with negligible earnings on money market accounts, a debt paydown on a 6% loan is a positive for them.

The housing market is still bad. While prices have been going up (0.5% per Federal Housing Financing Agency--FHFA), sales of existing home sales are down 5.1% in June.

Newly signed contracts plunged by 30% in May from the previous month, when the tax credit expired.


"Given that, you are going to see a huge drop in closed sales in July, and it's going to continue at a minimum until August," said Thomas Lawler, an independent housing economist in Leesburg, Va.

Home inventory which had been declining as the result of the housing tax credit went up in June by 2.5%. The supply vs. sales index went from 8.3 months to sell a home to 8.9 months.

My last point is the Baltic Dry Index. I follow this report on shipping traffic around the world as an indicator of worldwide economic health. If China is not importing a lot of raw materials, which it isn't, this leading indicator is a negative. In the past two months it has dropped almost 60%:

P.S. Coming soon: a major article analyzing the financial markets overhaul bill.

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JimboJammer's picture

Financial   Planners  say >>>   have  5 %  to  10 %  gold  ...

That  was  the  old  school...  After  looking  at  this 

web  site  for  3  months  a  family  should  have 

over  60 %  in  Gold  and  Silver  ....

Paper  Assets  are  not  safe  to  have ...

Dolly's picture

Few points to add into the pot:

1) There's always an incrementalism to taxes, regulation and legislation. No-one ever says "Ok, what the overall impact on the consumer or business owner ?" As such, it all keeps going in one direction. Society needs to push for a simpler world, which reduces costs, headaches and ends up shrinking Govt as well. I'm sure a whole chunk of taxes end up costing more to administer than they bring in.

2) Yep, we are in a world of increasing scale and uniformity. More and more town centres look the same as smaller businesses find the costs/value of being in business untenable. Again, nothing is pushing back this trend, so it will continue. What has happened in the west will happen in due course in the east. Yes, as shareholders, we love seeing the big retail giants grow, as customers it's also good, but the real impact is that it pushes a lot of people (usually without the nature or skills to work for a large company) back into the job market and that's where they realise that the world has changed so much, that there's not much space for them unless they re-train in some way. With change comes a few winners and usually a larger number of losers, at least in the short-term.

3) If you have a business in the west, then ask yourself "is this a good business period or is this a boom-time business only ?" I think a lot of people out there have wonderful boom-time businesses such as - health/fitness coaches, cafes, bookshops, restaurants etc - which do well during one part of the economic cycle, but if they are not at the top of their game, fall flat during a downturn when discretionary income disappears. This is reality, but the extent of the boom-time has led a lot of people into the false conclusion that a 2nd tier/ positioned business will survive forever.

If the west wants to re-shape itself for the next generation, then there needs to be a lot of thinking done as to how value will be added and how people will be efficiently utilised. if not, then you will have a lot of societal and international tensions.

Play the long game, Obama.

Escapeclaws's picture

LOL, at first I didn't get the joke (last line).

JimboJammer's picture

Too  late  game  over...

Ross  Perot  could  see  the  jobs  leaving...

This  all  could  have  been  fixed  20  years  ago...

NAFTA  and  the  Fed  ruined  the  whole  thing..

Fast Twitch's picture

"Larry, you can already hear that sucking sound of jobs leaving the country."

JimboJammer's picture

Too  late  game  over...

Ross  Perot  could  see  the  jobs  leaving...

This  all  could  have  been  fixed  20  years  ago...

NAFTA  and  the  Fed  ruined  the  whole  thing..

Seer's picture

Ross Perot... didn't he make most of his fortunes from govt contracts?  Further, didn't it have to do with electronics, stuff that, in essence, would replace actual people?

Many of the jobs that "left" really didn't go anywhere, they were taken over by robots- that's how we got to be more "efficient!"  (people don't like to admit this lest they end up agreeing with something that Karl Marx wrote- ooh, ick!  But, facts are facts, doesn't matter who speaketh them).

Iam_Silverman's picture

"Many of the jobs that "left" really didn't go anywhere, they were taken over by robots"

I am sure that the Mexicans don't like to be called robots.  The last of our major appliance assembly lines moved to Mexico about three years ago.  Are the textile assembling robots cheaper in China, Viet Nam or Bangladesh?

I am afraid your argument is refuted by the fact that many of our lower paying assembly/textile jobs moved to countries with very low wages.  If the robots could have done those same tasks, why would we have made in <insert foreign country name here> labels on so many products today?

No Mas's picture

Homer my man,

Back off DUDE!!!!  While you may disparge my remarks, pray tell where I am mistaken.

As I have said, a lot of folks are out of work.  NO ONE GIVES A GOOD GODDAMN!!!

Most of these folks are not going back to work, maybe ever.  NO ONE GIVES A GOOD GODDAMN!!!

If anyone gave a good goddamn, Obama and his boys would not have the power to keep them screwed over in perpituity.  But they do because the unemployed are the same people who put them in power and by the way, the same people who will keep them in power.

I'll repeat my "out on a limb" prediction, which I got using a crystal ball I pulled out of Marge's ass.  At the time of the next election, unemployment will still be around 9% and the Dems will still control the congress;  the deficit will not be reduced and the Dems will still control congress; our casualties in Afghanistan will be higher than ever and the dems will still control the congress.

You of all people should understand just how lazy and stupid is the american voter.  Something for nothing:  Unemployment benefits for life - more please.  Tax the shit out of the rich to pay for my doublewide mobile home? More please.

The market cares not for this silly economy.  It cares only that there is always the greater fool.  Can you with logic and a clear conscience debate that within this sewer of a culture that there is not ALWAYS a greater fool.

Want to talk about a sour economy and no job prospects?  Go ahead and whine with the rest of the ZH'ers.  Want to talk about this market?  Then get off your ass and go with the flow and that flow is UP UP UP and AWAY!!!!

Look out on Monday my friend.  This fuse has been lit by the fire of the Obama recovery.  AIN'T NO STOPPING US NOW.....!!!!

unionbroker's picture

i live on a port city on the west coast ,just as a hoby i count the ships anchored in the harbourn i usually see around 7 today i counted 21 is this because things are so good or things are so bad i have no idea



Iam_Silverman's picture

"is this because things are so good or things are so bad i have no idea"

I hear that it is the arrival of our Christmas inventory as well as Fall/Winter wardrode pre-orders.

Hang The Fed's picture

Why do we all "feel so bad?"  Well, that's sort of like asking a cancer patient why they feel bad when a hefty dose of chemo drives you into temporary remission...maybe the bloodwork looks good for a time, but the doctors only smile with their mouths and they look a little uncomfortable during those bedside chats.  Truth be told, this silly and needlessly complicated numbers game that we've been playing has so many moving parts that it's open to usury and abuse on a plethora of fronts.  That being said, there are no more miracles that any of these useless govt. hacks will be able to pull out of their asses to really make the situation improve for the people that they supposedly represent.  It's always been about consolidating wealth and power in the hands of a few and making the rest of us into a pile of miserable slaves, with just enough to get by and plenty of worthless distractions to try to keep the curtain in place.

Iam_Silverman's picture

"Why do we all "feel so bad?""

Because when we look in the mirror we see Japan?

Goldenballs's picture

I honestly think salvation for the nation will come from the people.People shooting police officers are no better than the corrupt Government and its agencies.When people have little to loose politicians become worried and as things worsen I feel improvement will come from within,you can put out a spark but you can,t put out a fire.A small incident could well have the effect of bringing people together to tell their leaders they are living on borrowed time and have had enough.The haunting images of the Great Depression are what is remembered not the speeches of the politicians,as more people suffer they will ask what is our quality of life in this modern age of 2010.Less freedom although more on paper,the rights to be unemployed,poor,blamed for their situation,no future for their children, whilst real rights are denied them.People will come together to challenge the present for a better future and politicians had better wake up to this reality,they are running scared as once people unite and find they are the real power and conscience of the nation things will change.People are not numbers they are intelligent human beings who realise that institutionalised crime is being conducted against them by the very people who claim to represent their interests.The financial world is a symptom of how out of reality the self praising elite have become.It dosen,t mean that because you are mega rich you are not a part of society and can live above it,no man is an island,you depend just as much on the man down the road.What will you do,buy a private Island and a private Army to keep you safe,because the man down the road whoose wages you have cut to the point where he can,t survive will come and find you and there will be more and more of him.Society will come together and demand a better future and so much of whats currently going on will be deemed socially unacceptable and Government will become accountable once again.

Seer's picture

"A small incident could well have the effect of bringing people together to tell their leaders they are living on borrowed time and have had enough."

Little chance of that.  TPTB have power because they've yanked it away from others.  Power doesn't cede itself willingly.

But everything else I agree with.  People WILL form their own "solutions," freely (that's what anarchism is about- freedom to associate and to not concentrate or abdicate [for individuals] power).

Goldenballs's picture

We now live in an age where no one believes anything told them by a person in authority and usually for good reason as there is now no real barometer that can be regarded as truthful.How many working people can look forward to a quality of life in retirement,regard a job as anything more than short term,feel hard work will be rewarded,spend money on a few luxuries without feeling guilty,in short feel confident about anything.Tax increases are seen by governments as a right because the populace are divided,apathetic and the majority have to work harder and harder to stand still and when things go wrong who ultimately pays for them,the working man (or today just as likely to be the unemployed man ).These figures may look good but thats what they are produced for,joe public knows its a con,rising stock market,economic reports,government spending,etc, forget it,he knows he,s getting poorer by the day.If politicians and bankers were paid on true results they would be living in cardboard boxes in the middle of motorways.Accountability is another thing that only seems to apply to the working man.The future is not bright and he knows it.

DosZap's picture


"We now live in an age where no one believes anything told them by a person in authority and usually for good reason as there is now no real barometer that can be regarded as truthful."

Correct, and when it continues to worsen,and it will(we have no End Game Out), Crime rises, and Anarchy ensues.............no jobs, no way to eat, house family, lose it all, Gv't takes over,Martial Law, and curfews.................

People are already shooting Police Officers on the sreets, for no apparent reason................not drive by's, from positions hidden nearby.....like Terrorist tactics.

It will only get worse..............folks, you had better have a plan, and make sure you can sustain yourself, and loved one's, be preprared now...........

The sheeple will not, and will panic, and you want to be out of sight, and out /away from, large Urban area's,esp large cities within a 6-8, mile circle...........farther is better.

I am not advocating doing this second, but have everything you will need, and a plan...........and a back up plan, to that.


Seer's picture

"Anarchy ensues"

Anarchy is a transitional phase.  Besides, like that's NOT what's BEEN occurring?

Please note that anarchism is NOT to be confused with anarchy (TPTB would like you to believe so).

FunkyMonkeyBoy's picture

It doesn't matter how many bulls**t projections they make now. They know that their imminent engineered wars with N.Korea and Iran will be used as an excuse as to why their overly optimistic projections didn't become reality. It's full on end game now tactics now.

3ringmike's picture

moved into my van. gave my dog away. live behind a gas station by the beach. they sell coffee for fifty cents a cup with a free refill. life's good. what's the problem?

RichardENixon's picture

Yea well don't expect your cushy life on easy street to last much longer pal.

Seer's picture

Yeah, just try looking up that 2/3 of the world's population that lives on $3/day of less.  I knew what it was like, but not until I actually touched, smelled and tasted it (though I was able to "escape" at any time) did I really realize what it's like.  Makes my days when I lived in an old trailer and literally counting pennies in order to eat look pretty mild.

Waterfallsparkles's picture

Well, I am with you.  Although, I do live in the Real World not the Wall Street World.

I have some Rental properties.  I have had to reduce the rent on one property by a third to keep my Tenant.  It takes on average 8 months to find a Tenant (at a substancial reduced rent from the prior Tenant).  Property Taxes have gone thru the Roof.  In Baltimore City Md. they raised Property Taxes on Landlords by 150%.  Taxes on 2 properties went from $6,300. a year to $14,600. Insurance is up, Repair costs are up.  More money paying utilities, advertizing while trying to find Tenants.

So, using Rental properties for my Retirement I have lost about 50% of my income from Higher Taxes, expenses and lower rent.

I have had to cut everything to the bone.  Went to a prepaid cell phone for $10 per month.  Cut cabel to the bone.  Cut out extra phone lines.  Do not buy anything that I do not need.  Turned heat down to 58% and Do not use AC unless it gets over 95. Did not even plant flowers this year.  I have bought NOTHING that was not absolutely necessary. Basically only buy food on sale.  Buy things like 1 lb bag of popcorn you pop yourself for $1.  Drink water with a few squirts of Real Lemon.  Bought Real Lemon kick off for $1. bottle (makes about 20 gallons of lightly flavored water).

Yes, I have become a real cheepskate but what is the choice?

Cannot sell the properties.  How much would I get in this Market and after holding them for over 20 or so years the gain would be subject to the Alternate Tax. So, the Government would get about 45%.  With the money left were would I put it?  I certainly would not put it in the Market because I want to keep what is left.  What is the Bank paying these days .05%?

Well, that is why I am not feeling so great.  How about you?

traderjoe's picture

The mega-corporations are continuing to squeeze the economy. They have lobbyist access, can manage taxes around borders, etc. So, the S&P 500 can make money, but the mom-and-pops cannot. The surviving contractors, utilities, grocery stores, etc. can/need to charge more, continuing to squeeze the have-nots. Our two-tier economy is not healthy for the long-term. But sure it might drive the stock market higher for how long?

Noah Vail's picture

You have described very well how government is destroying small business in this nation. That's the biggest penalty for creating credit bubbles. It drives up the cost of everything, and then when it pops, everyone's revenue collapses while governments continue on as if nothing happened. You only love unions if you're in one, otherwise you'd like to firebomb the bastards.

Seer's picture

And if you look behind the curtain, past the govt, you will see big business, you know, the ones with all the REAL lobbying power, the ones that constantly cycle in an out of govt..

But, it all matters not, we can whine about govt, unions, business, China and whatever until we'r eblue in the face, but NONE will present us with the actual needed resources for economic growth, that comes from Mother Nature, and she's running out...

SimpleSimon's picture

You are feeling bad because you took the red pill.  Obama clearly instructed you to take the blue one.  You can't blame him now.

Amish Hacker's picture

All these posts are making valid points, imo. But any realistic plan for America's economic future has to account for two overriding factors: cheap, easily accessible petro-energy is disappearing; 2) the American Empire has become over-militarized at home and abroad, which is causing our growing impoverishment.

traderjoe's picture

I have a longer list to add, but will just mention two:

1. demographics (health care costs, pension costs, housing and equities demand, etc.) will be against us for 10-20 years as the baby boomers retire; and (2) our education system is falling further and further behind with shortened schedules, union tenure rules, etc.


Suisse's picture

Basing economics on demographics is absurd, technology is the reason for unprecedented productivity, not human labor. Besides, population cannot increase indefinitely.

Seer's picture

To use your words, energy is the reason for unprecedented productivity.

A barrel of oil is equivalent to about 25,000 human hours of work.

Without all that oil the machines wouldn't be as productive!

Fundamentals, people, fundamentals...

Thanks for playing!

EkOnkaar's picture

I believe I read somewhere that the BDI is low not beause of diminished demand, but more so on account of an increase in supply of vessels. The anticipated increase in demand did not materialize, and since this is a very capital intensive business, rates can drop dramatically with supply demand imbalance, kind of like the airlines fares.

jmho. ek


bullchit's picture
@ Leo. A suicide note?


JimboJammer's picture

Good  Article....  Richard  Russell  is  right  ,   so  is  Jim  Willie..

Google  >>  Jim  Willie  Smoking  Gun .

Good  reading..

Pondmaster's picture

Leo , agree , your definition of "not that bad" or "comeon things are good " is relative. Its not bad to be optimistic . But its dangerous not to be a realist . May the Big ones who are preying on the little ones ,( until the middle class is eaten) , not find you for awhile . WE ARE ALL eligible .

sodbuster's picture

FHA is broke.

Fannie and Freddie broke.

Most large banks are insolvent- worldwide.

Nation's sovereign debt around the world is massive.

Most state's debt is unmanageable.

Many large cities are on the verge of default.

Tax revenues are declining.

Muni-bonds are becoming a risk investment.

Home inventories are probably closer to a 2-year inventory, than 8 months.

Unemployment is getting worse, not better.

The idiots in CONgress are still dreaming up new programs to be financed forever.

Oh yeah, things are great! cause Apple had good earnings and sold some over-priced Chinese crap.



delacroix's picture

home inventories 7+ years

Cyan Lite's picture

Facebook hit 500 million users, buy buy buy!!

keating's picture

If you have a job, and a small mortgage, things are OK. If you don't have a job or you have a big underwater mortgage, you are screwed to the wall.


If we get a new congress, spending less, things will still only be good if you have a job. Unemployment will be high for years. If you don't have a college degree, you are screwed to the wall.

lawton's picture

college grads havent been getting too many decent jobs the last couple of years but are leaving with huge debt burdens many times...

John_Coltrane's picture

That's a problem when you major in art history, psychology or other faux subjects.  But there's major shortages in technical fields where the unemployment rate for scientists has not wavered from it historical 1-2% for over 20 years.

ejmoosa's picture

Your house is worth more.  You just cannot sell it.  I feel better already.

Seer's picture

Welcome to the Hotel California...

Mojo's picture

All these "bad" things are already priced in. There is growth and they are in asia and latin america. All the sellers already sold and are afraid to get back in. It looks like the stock market is going to go up from here. A couple of weeks, who knows? 

John_Coltrane's picture

"sellers already sold and are afraid to get back in".   So, Einstein, who will be the new buyers then?  The FED maybe?  There are no buyers (i.e. bids) once panic sets in as the flash crash demonstrated.  Whereas, there is huge selling into any rally especially by insiders.

homersimpson's picture

Mojo, Abiggs, and No Mas needs to get a room and have a long threesome while talking about their crystal-ball theories.

A Man without Qualities's picture

While I agree the recent sharp drops have driven a lot of long term investors out of the markets, maybe never to return.  Those still there are hanging on at these levels.

However, who bought?  The types of buyers are more interested in short term overbought or oversold conditions and we've come about 10% off the lows, it won't take much to make them decide to take profits.  It seems to me the markets will become even more dangerously volatile as the average holding period gets shorter and shorter, with investors willing to go from being 200% long to 200% short in the space of a few days or even hours.

I can't deny the momentum is up, but we are focusing on decent corporate earning (which fits in with the inventory restocking and govt stimulus), while ignoring the macro factors that suggest end consumption is not going to be taking things off the shelves.

However, a double dip now would bring on a new dark ages, so maybe they will just conceal the truth for as long as they can.