Is a second recession in so short of a time in the offing? It certainly seems that way. The hope for a continued recovery has grown dim as of late as many of the economic indexes are moving towards contractionary territory. As we posted recently in "EOC Index Shows Economic Weakness" there are several concerns pressing the US economy and, in the words of David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff, “one small shock” could send us into a second recession. With the recent release of the Chicago Fed National Activity Index our proprietary economic index is just one small step away from crossing the 35 mark which has always been a pre-cursor to recession. We have discussed many times recently that with the unemployment rate remaining high, housing prices slipping into a secondary decline, consumer and business spending slowing, while gas and food prices remain high eating up more than 20% of consumers wages and salaries. Add on top of these factors the likelihood of a Greek debt default, a slowdown in the Eurozone, a weaker dollar and Washington locked in debate over the debt ceiling - well, the list of risks far outweigh the positives. However, that doesn't seem to deter Wall Street economists and main stream media which seem to all be wearing an extremely thick pair of rose colored glasses these days. However, it doesn't take an economist to figure out that any one of these factors could send us tumbling into a second recession.
"It’s A Cash-Flow Problem": The Ever Broker US Consumer Increasingly Relying On Credit Cards For Daily StaplesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/21/2011 13:50 -0400
Somehow, in all the confusion, the endangered species known as the American "consumer" missed the economic recovery. The reason, as Bloomberg writes, is that consumers are increasingly "using credit cards to pay for basic necessities as income gains fail to keep pace with rising food and fuel prices." The data comes from credit card transaction processor First Data which reported that the dollar volume of charged purchases rose 10.7% in June (a 6.8% increase in the number of transactions). "The difference probably represents the increasing cost of gasoline, said Silvio Tavares, senior vice president at First Data, the largest credit card processor. "Consumers, particularly in the lower-income end, are being forced to use their credit cards for everyday spending like gas and food,” said Tavares, who’s based in Atlanta. “That’s because there’s been no other positive catalyst, like an increase in wages, to offset higher prices. It’s a cash-flow problem." Alas, it gets worse. As Bank of America's Joshua Dennerlein
reports today, the end of the year will see 3.7 million Americans stop
receiving jobless benefits. "This will act as a hit to consumption in
the first quarter of 2012." This number is completely independent of any
possible new legislation to extended jobless benefits for new
unemployed labor pool entrants, as it merely affects those about to hit
the 99 week cliff. Unfortunately even more "growth" over the next 6-9
months will have to come from the Fed and the only thing it knows how to
do: print, print, print.
While we politely disagree with David Rosenberg on what is the ultimate flight to safety "security" (in our insolvent day and age perhaps the very word at the heart of capital markets needs to be changed), with him believing in bonds, predicated by a fear of an eventual deflationary crunch, while we ignore any instrument that is used a policy tool by the central planners and instead prefer precious metals, we always are impressed by his ability to synthesize reality in a few succinct bullet points (even if according to Eni's Recchi itself is irrelevant after saying that "Italy’s bond yields don’t reflect reality"). That is most certainly the case today when in his latest Breakfast with Dave letter to clients, Rosie summarizes the 7 reasons why "we should be worried."
When it comes to the debt ceiling, we have heard everyone and the kitchen sink's opinion on this issue at this point. Yet one person who has been silent so far is the original skeptic David Rosenberg. Summarized: "Despite the fear mongering, the U.S. government is not going to default. Any backup in bond yields from a failure to cobble together a deal will drive market rates down because of the deflationary implications from the massive fiscal squeeze that would ensue at a time of a huge 5% output gap. Even if there were to be some sort of "buyer's strike" if the U.S. were to be defaulted, rest assured that the Fed would step in aggressively." Obviously to a mega bond bull like Rosenberg, this is the only possible outcome. After all an alternative would mean the central planners have failed, and the most artificially inflated security in the history of man: US bonds, which are only there because they are the "best of all evils" was enjoying an extended "ignore the emperor's nudity" sabbatical... which alas does not change their evilness, nor is this equilibrium stable once more and more realize it is all about gold at the end of the day. And as yesterday demonstrated when existential fear grips the market, the impossible does happen, and both bonds and stocks can sell off, and in the process lead to all time records for gold. Bookmark July 14: it is a harbinger of what is coming.
Recession and/or brink of collapse?
How Capitalism Went On A Brief Sabbatical Which Became A Permanent Vacation: Rosenberg Explains "The Artificial Recovery"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 06/27/2011 21:36 -0400
Indeed, this 2009-2011 recovery and cyclical bull market has been as artificial as the 2003-07 expansion. That last one was fuelled by financial engineering in the financial sector. This one is being underpinned by unprecedented government intrusion in the credit markets. As of this quarter, your government has replaced the private sector as the largest source of outstanding mortgage market and consumer-related credit (see front page of the Investor's Business Daily). So not only is the U.S.A. turning Japanese in many respects, it is also now resembling China where the government also redirects the flow of private sector credit. When we said capitalism went on a sabbatical three years ago, we didn't expect this to be a permanent vacation.
The Great Recession has now earned the dubious right of being compared to the Great Depression. In the face of the most stimulative fiscal and monetary policies in our history, we have experienced the loss of over 7 million jobs, wiping out every job gained since the year 2000. From the moment the Obama administration came into office, there have been no net increases in full-time jobs, only in part-time jobs. This is contrary to all previous recessions. Employers are not recalling the workers they laid off from full-time employment. The real job losses are greater than the estimate of 7.5 million. They are closer to 10.5 million, as 3 million people have stopped looking for work. Equally troublesome is the lower labor participation rate; some 5 million jobs have vanished from manufacturing, long America's greatest strength. Just think: Total payrolls today amount to 131 million, but this figure is lower than it was at the beginning of the year 2000, even though our population has grown by nearly 30 million...The inescapable bottom line is an unprecedented slack in the U.S. labor market. Labor's share of national income has fallen to the lowest level in modern history, down to 57.5 percent in the first quarter as compared to 59.8 percent when the so-called recovery began. This reflects not only the 7 million fewer workers but the fact that wages for part-time workers now average $19,000—less than half the median income.
A few weeks ago we pointed out what may be the most troubling (and Marxist) observation in America's labor arena, namely that the labor's share of national income has dropped to the lowest in history as a record number of Americans now focus on wealth creation through assets (i.e. owners of capital) instead of labor. In his just released latest letter (below) Bill Gross piggybacks on this observation in what is one of the most scathing notes blasting the traditional of higher education, and in essence claiming that college, as means of perpetuating a broken employment status quo whcih redirect labor to a now-expiring Wall Street labor model, is now worthless: "The past
several decades have witnessed an erosion of our manufacturing base in
exchange for a reliance on wealth creation via financial assets. Now,
as that road approaches a dead-end cul-de-sac via interest rates that
can go no lower, we are left untrained, underinvested and overindebted
relative to our global competitors. The precipitating
cause of our structural employment break is both internal neglect and
external competition. Blame us. Blame them. There’s plenty of blame to
go around." And why college graduates have only a 6 digit loan to look forward to: "American citizens and its universities have experienced an ivy-laden ivory tower for the past half century. Students, however, can no longer assume that a four year degree will be the golden ticket to a good job in a global economy that cares little for their social networking skills and more about what their labor is worth on the global marketplace." And some very bad news for the communists in the White House and the chimpanzees in the San Francisco Fed who continue to believe that unemployment is anything but structural: "The “golden” days are over, and it’s time our school and jobs “daze” comes to an end to be replaced by programs that do more than mimic failed establishment policies favoring Wall as opposed to Main Street."
Yesterday we brought you Goldman's quite bearish takeway on Bernanke's speech (excluding the highly irrelevant Jamie Dimon monologue detour: we can't wait to hear what the JPM CEO says once it is announced that Glass-Steagall is being reinstated). Below we present Rosie's key takeaways on Bernanke's remarks. "Bernanke said the 'jobs situation remains far from normal" and as such, this recovery cannot be regarded as being "truly established." That is quite an admission — free money, a tripling of the Fed's balance sheets and 10% deficit/GDP ratios have fallen short of establishing an established recovery. Cause for pause."
It has been a while since the non-paid media saw much from Rosie, who recently decided to go premium. It is ironic then that one of his most controversial pieces came out while he was behind a paywall, namely that he has gone bullish. Today, he takes the time to explain his real position, and share the report that started it all.
With David Rosenberg's free economic updates soon to be a thing of the past, now that the Gluskin Sheff strategist has decided to go premium, it seemed there may be a large void needing to be filled in the economic commentary space. It appears said void may have already been filled, by Grant Williams, publisher of the fantastic Things That Make You Go Hmmm report which combines individual commentary and linked content in one delightful package, who after a brief hiatus is now back online and making readers go hmmm. Whereas Williams previously published within the editorial confines of bulge bracket wannabe Jefferies, he has since liberated himself (and his cynicism), and is now publishing, as he puts it, "under my own auspices and without any compliance filter." Zero Hedge agrees that those are certainly the best auspices and the best filter. So for those for whom TTMYGH is a new summary, here is your introduction.
No more copy paste from the world's biggest bond deflationist. A day after the NYT announced it will soon see its traffic plunge courtesy of a paywall, David Rosenberg says he is going the premium route as well. "Since first publishing Breakfast with Dave when I started with Gluskin Sheff + Associates back in May 2009, we had always notified our readership that the report was going to be made available on a free trial basis. For clients of our firm, the report is still going to be made available for free. But for non-clients, the free trial period will finish by the end of March. At that time, the Breakfast (and other meals) with Dave will become a paid subscription service with an annual fee of CAD $1,000." Sad - no more copy paste from one of the smarter macroeconomists out there.
Some big picture observations on the market and inflation from deflationist David Rosenberg: "There is a great debate both in the markets and among Fed officials about whether QE3 will be necessary. Atlanta’s Lockhart was the latest to voice his view that such will be unwarranted, and he seems to find support from the likes of Richard Fisher from Dallas and Charles Plosser from Philadelphia. But there are others like Janet Yellen and Bill Dudley who appear to desire even more doses of stimulus. Bernanke is keeping his cards close to his vest. All we can say is that by the time the decision will be made, the headline U.S. inflation rate is very likely going to be at or above 3%, so the Fed is going to have a real job on its hands to convince everyone that “core” is the measure to watch (though even here we can expect to see fuel kick into airlines and cotton seep into apparel)."
Even Bernie Madoff is disgusted by the nonsense going on in the stock markets as he tells New York Magazine this weekend that the entire Government-run stock market is nothing more than a giant Ponzi scheme.