While the specter of the debt ceiling debate continues to haunt the halls of Washington D.C. it is the state of retail sales that investors should be potentially focusing on. While the latest retail sales figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis are unavailable due to the government shutdown; we can look at other data sources to derive the trend and direction of consumer spending as we head into the beginning of the biggest shopping periods of the year - Halloween, Thanks Giving (Black Friday) and Christmas. The recent downturns in consumer confidence and spending are likely being exacerbated by the controversy in Washington; but it is clear that the consumer was already feeling the pressure of the surge in interest rates, higher energy and food costs and stagnant wages. As we have warned in the past - these divergences do not last forever and tend to end very badly.
Are we on the verge of another major economic downturn? In recent weeks, most of the focus has been on our politicians in Washington, but there are lots of other reasons to be deeply alarmed about the economy as well. Economic confidence is down, retail sales figures are disappointing, job cuts are up, and American consumers are deeply struggling. Even if our politicians do everything right, there would still be a significant chance that we could be heading into tough economic times in the coming months. Our economy is being fundamentally transformed, and the pace of our decline is picking up speed. The following are 22 reasons to be concerned about the U.S. economy as we head into the holiday season...
Government spending has long been believed to have a multiplier effect in the economy. However, as the chart above shows, the reality is quite shocking. Each dollar in debt only increased GDP by roughly $0.15. In other words each $1 in government spending actually has a negative multiplier effect of 85% in the real economy. The leaders in Washington need to start focusing on the real issues at hand. While we toss around $100 billion here and there, as if it is left pocket change, the reality is that the rising debt levels will continue to drag on economic growth going forward. Of course, the continued shenanigans in Washington, inept leadership and lack of fiscal responsibility is why there is a continuing increase in the number of individuals who perceive the need for a third political party. Change was promised. Change is wanted. Change will happen. Unfortunately, history shows that REAL change, politically and otherwise, has only occurred under the worst possible conditions.
60% of Americans Want a Third Party Candidate for 2016
With Gallup indicating the biggest 3-week decline in economic confidence since Lehman, it is hardly a surprise that UMich consumer confidence slumped to its lowest since January having fallen 3 months in a row. This is the 2nd monthly miss in a row - and biggest 3-month drop in 25 months - and appears to confirm the cyclical turn we have been discussing for a few months. And remember, the exuberance of multiple expansion relies on the ever-rising confidence of the people to lift it back to nebulous heights.
Despite stock (not bond) euphoria yesterday that a DC debt ceiling deal was sealed leading to the second largest risk ramp of 2013, last night was spent diffusing the excitement as one after another politician talked back the success of a "non-deal" that Obama rejected, at least according to the NYT. As a result, with both retail sales data and the PPI not being released (and the only data of note the always leaked UMichigan consumer confidence) markets will again be at the behest of developments on Capitol Hill, with some talk from Republicans suggesting a deal as early as today could be possible in an effort to reopen government on Monday. It is entirely possible that talks could continue over the weekend though, which would ensure a gappy open to Asian markets on Monday.
As reported previously, the latest meme surrounding the D.C. impasse is that Obama is suddenly willing to compromise on a short-term, supposedly six-week funding and debt ceiling extension, on the verge of his latest talks with republicans at the White House scheduled for this morning, as previously floated by the GOP. Throw some additional headlines such as "Ryan steps up to shape a deal" (in line with what we predicted yesterday) and "The ice breaks; fiscal talks set", by The Hill, and "GOP quietly backing away from Obamacare" from Politico, and one can see why futures are in breakneck soaring mode this morning, driven as usual by the two main JPY cross (USD and AUD), the first of which is less than 100 pips now away from being Stolpered out. So will a compromise deal finally emerge 7 days ahead of the first X-Date, or will a last minute snag once again derail the (non)-negotiations? We will know quite soon.
Last week we showed the cognitive dissonance, nurtured by a liquidity-providing Fed, that has growth this year between stocks and economic confidence. In the last week, fed by a diet of DC headlines, Gallup's economic confidence index has collapsed. In fact, this is the worst 3-week plunge since Lehman - worse than during the 2011 Debt Ceiling debacle.
Why are young people in America so frustrated these days?
You are about to find out...
The system is failing, and young people are going to become even angrier and even more frustrated.
Faith, hope, and central bank charity... that's all there is left in the new normal.
The sad truth is that, based on Gallup survey data, Americans have never trusted other Americans less. Is this the "short" that catalyzed the real trade of the decade - "long gold" - as a hedge for the lies and liars that run the nation...
If you want to live the high life, you don't have to become a rap star, a professional athlete or a Wall Street banker. All it really takes is winning an election. Right now, more than half of all the members of Congress are millionaires, and most of them leave "public service" far wealthier than when they entered it. Since most of them have so much money, you would think that they would be willing to do a little "belt-tightening" for the sake of the American people. After all, things are supposedly "extremely tight" in Washington D.C. right now. In fact, just the other day Nancy Pelosi insisted that there were "no more cuts to make" to the federal budget. But even as they claim that things are so tough right now, our politicians continue to live the high life at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.
After a small bounce earlier in the month, Gallup's US Economic Confidence Index has slumped back to its lowest level in 6 months. Combined with record misses in UMich Confidence and the slide in the Conference Board's sentiment measures, it would appear the animal spirits are fading as reality hits once again...
In a world some thought we would never see, most Americans and much of Congress seem to agree with Ron Paul's foreign policy advice - at least on the question of a military strike against Syria...
With US equity markets on a 7-day roll and excited TV anchors proclaiming the worst over and new all-time highs must signal recovery as they 'celebrate' five years on from Lehman, the following two charts of the state of real America should open a few eyes to just how blinded American has become to the truth (unless you live it). A stunning 20.0% of Americans were found to have struggled to afford food in the last year - surging in recent months to its highest since the peak of the crisis in 2008 - as American's ability to consistently afford food has not recovered to pre-recession levels. Furthermore, Americans access to basic needs (13 factors including housing, healthcare, and food) hovers near record lows - dramatically lower than pre-recession levels. The Gallup polls point to a very different image of American than Dow 15,000 - and is set to get worse as the food stamp program is set to be cut in November.