by ilene - July 31st, 2010 7:59 pm
Doug Short compared recent data from Rick at Consumer Metrics Institute using chart overlays of the GDP and S&P. He also provides additional commentary. (In case you missed my interview with Rick back in April, it’s here.) – Ilene
Courtesy of Doug Short
Note from dshort: The 91-day Growth Index continues its downward slide with data now available though July 29th. Note that the Real GDP numbers are updated with the BEA’s revised estimates from 2007 through First Quarter 2010. See the explanation here.
The three charts below focus on the ‘Trailing Quarter’ Growth Index, which is computed as a 91-day moving average for the year-over-year growth/contraction of the Weighted Composite Index. The index gives a nearly real-time daily snapshot of consumer behavior across a wide variety of consumption categories. The 91-day period is useful for comparison with key quarterly metrics such as GDP. Since the consumer accounts for over two-thirds of the US economy, one would expect that a well-crafted index of consumer behavior would serve as a leading indicator. As the chart suggests, during the five-year history of the index, it has generally lived up to that expectation. Actually, the chart understates the degree to which the Growth Index leads GDP. Why? Because the advance estimates for GDP are released a month after the end of the quarter in question, so the Growth Index lead time has been substantial.
Has the Growth Index also served as a leading indicator of the stock market? The next chart is an overlay of the index and the S&P 500. The Growth Index clearly peaked before the market in 2007 and bottomed in late August of 2008, over six months before the market low in March 2009.
by ilene - July 30th, 2010 12:58 am
The Dog Ate my Report Card
Courtesy of Gordon T. Long
Both came to an end at the same time: the administration’s policy to Extend & Pretend has run out of time as has the patience of the US electorate with the government’s Keynesian economic policy responses. Desperate last gasp attempts are to be fully expected, but any chance of success is rapidly diminishing.
Whether an unimpressed and insufficiently loyal army general, a fleeing cabinet budget chief or G20 peers going the austerity route, all are non-confidence votes for the Obama administration’s present policies. A day after the courts slapped down President Obama’s six month gulf drilling moratorium, the markets were unpatriotically signaling a classic head and shoulders topping pattern. With an employment rebound still a non-starter, President Obama as expected was found to be asking for yet another $50B in unemployment extensions and state budget assistance to avoid teacher layoffs. However, the gig is up: the policy of Extend and Pretend has no time left on the shot clock nor for another round of unemployment benefit extensions. A congress that is now clearly frightened of what it sees looming in the fall midterm elections is running for cover on any further spending initiatives. The US electorate has been sending an unmistakable message in all elections nationwide.
The housing market is rolling over as fully expected and predicted by almost everyone except the White House and its lap-dog press corp. Noted analyst Meredith Whitney says a double dip in housing is a ‘no brainer’ with the government’s HAMP program clearly a bust as one third of participants are now dropping out. The leading economic indicator (ECRI) has abruptly turned lower, signaling the economy is slowing rapidly without the $1T per month stimulus addiction, which has kept the extend and pretend economy on life support.
The gulf oil spill that was initially stated as 1000 barrels per day has been revised upwards faster than the oil can reach the surface. It now appears to be north of 100,000 barrels per day. A 100 percent miss is about in line with the miss on how many jobs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) was going to create. Also, it appears the administration can’t even get its hands around the basics of administration management during any crisis event. Teleprompter politics…
by ilene - July 28th, 2010 5:30 pm
History doesn’t always repeat but it often rhymes.
When I began writing ten years ago, I would offer that the opposite of love wasn’t hate; it was apathy.
I shared that thought after tech stocks dropped 40% in less than two months and then recovered half those losses the next two months. We all know what happened next; the tech sector melted 70% the next few years.
Wash and rinse, Pete and repeat; we’ve seen that sequel again and again and again. From the homebuilders (real estate) to China to crude oil, a “new paradigm” arrived. Every time was different and each offered a fresh set of forward expectations that would finally prove historical precedents need not apply
I traded all of those bubbles thinking quite sure they would follow the path of false hope and empty promises paved by their predecessors. That proved true as the real estate market crashed, China imploded under the weight of the world, and crude crumbled just as it seemed ready to stake claim to the new world order. (See: Oil of Oy Vey)
While those bubbles hit home for many Americans, they’re hardly unprecedented through a historical lens.
There was the tulip mania in 17th century Holland as Dutch collectors hoarded a hierarchy of flowers.
The Mississippi and South Sea bubbles of the 18th century emerged in the wake of Europe’s dire economic condition.
The roaring twenties, fueled by an expansive use of leverage, led to the crash and Great Depression while not necessarily in that order.
And there’s Japan, perhaps the most frequently referenced modern-day parallel of our current course. The land of the rising sun boasted one of the strongest economies on the planet before a prolonged period of deregulation, money supply growth, low interest rates, bad real estate bets, and “zaitech” (financial engineering) creating a virtuous cycle of speculative frenzy that ultimately collapsed the country.
Does any of this strike a chord?
If familiarity breeds contempt, the percolating societal acrimony shouldn’t come as a shocker. Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That most certainly applies to our financial fate…
Is a Massive Head and Shoulders Pattern Completing: Just Like On the Eve of the Second Wave Down in the Great Depression?
by ilene - July 5th, 2010 6:21 pm
Is a Massive Head and Shoulders Pattern Completing … Just Like On the Eve of the Second Wave Down in the Great Depression?
Courtesy of Washington’s Blog
In January 2009, I pointed out:
The Telegraph’s lead economic writer, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, has an interesting article arguing that we are in 1931-like conditions:
- A big crash has already happened
- Things are very gloomy
- But we haven’t been hit by the biggest crash, the "second leg down" which didn’t end for a couple of years
What’s he talking about?
Well, look at this chart:
(click here to see full image).
As you can see, the 1929 crash was actually very small compared to the "second leg down" crash which didn’t end until 1932 or 1933.
Today, CNBC is reporting:
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is repeating a pattern that appeared just before markets fell during the Great Depression, Daryl Guppy, CEO at Guppytraders.com, told CNBC Monday.
“Those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it…there was a head and shoulders pattern that developed before the Depression in 1929, then with the recovery in 1930 we had another head and shoulders pattern that preceded a fall in the market, and in the current Dow situation we see an exact repeat of that environment,” Guppy said.
(Robert McHugh is saying the same thing.)
And yesterday, Evans-Pritchard gave an update on macroeconomic trends in an article entitled "With the US trapped in depression, this really is starting to feel like 1932":
"The economy is still in the gravitational pull of the Great Recession," said Robert Reich, former US labour secretary. "All the booster rockets for getting us beyond it are failing."
"Home sales are down. Retail sales are down. Factory orders in May suffered their biggest tumble since March of last year. So what are we doing about it? Less than nothing," he said. [You can read the rest of Reich's essay here]
California is tightening faster than Greece…. Can Illinois be far behind?
Roughly a million Americans have dropped out of the jobs market altogether over the past two months. That is the only
by ilene - July 3rd, 2010 3:59 pm
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
The end of Keynesianism? Yes, I think we’re seeing it now. Fed Chief Bernanke in his writing blamed the Great Depression on the Fed for shrinking the money supply. In fact, Bernanke even apologized on the part of the Fed for “causing the Great Depression.” Bernanke, wrote a famous piece explaining to “us know-nothings” that the Fed has a magic instrument, it was the ability to print money, and, if necessary, to drop this Fed-created money to the American people from helicopters. With his magic power, concluded Ben, there was no way the US could slide into another Great Depression.
It was great and comforting concept, but it didn’t work. After leaving rates at zero, printing over two trillion “dollars” and backing billions of dollars in stimulus plans, unemployment remains high, housing stays in the dumps and the national debt has sky-rocketed beyond all reckoning.
The spending plans of the Obama administration and the expansion of money by the Fed has left the US in worse shape than ever. Unemployment is still high, and the US has taken its place along with Greece and Portugal as another “half-broke banana republic.”
How did this horror story befall the once “greatest nation on earth” and the one-time “Arsenal of Democracy?” If a house is built on sandstone and with rotten timber it’s not a question of whether that house will fall apart — it’s a question of WHEN. Ever since the end of World War II, Americans have been enjoying the greatest standard of living the world has ever seen. How did we do it? Was it hard work, sweat, original thinking, risk-taking or pure luck? Hardly any of those, it was through borrowing and creating a gigantic house-of-cards. The cards were the newly-created bits of paper that we call dollars (actually, they are Federal Reserve notes backed by nothing).
Without its abilities to create fiat money, the US could never have built its “house-of-cards economy.” Without the insidious Fed, the US would never have had the ability to create trillions of unbacked Fed notes.
I’ve insisted all along that the US should have allowed the primary bear forces to fully express themselves, as they inevitably will do anyway. But in its arrogance and ignorance, the administration decided that they could halt or sidestep a
by ilene - May 31st, 2010 12:30 pm
Courtesy of John Nyaradi’s Wall Street Sector Selector
As I look across the global landscape today, I see extraordinary danger and extraordinary opportunity.
Danger comes from the deteriorating economic environment at home and abroad and extraordinary opportunity comes from the enormous volatility and opportunities to “short” the market followed by a once in a generation opportunity to “buy dollars for dimes” once a bottom to this market has been reached.
Over the next five years I believe we will see more bankruptcies, both individual and sovereign, than we’ve seen in our history and we’ll also see more millionaires and billionaires created than ever before.
As individuals we will each make one of two choices. We can assume the “deer in the headlights” posture and stash our money under the mattress, or we can educate ourselves, take prudently managed risk and work to take advantage of the enormous opportunities that will present themselves.
Looking at My Screens
This week we saw enormous volatility in every asset class as global forces washed over the markets of the world and investors/traders tried to position themselves on the only side of the market that counts, “the right side.”
The downtrend that started in April is still firmly in place, notwithstanding Thursday’s rally from oversold levels and we remain in the “Red Flag Flying” mode expecting lower prices ahead.
Taking a look at the chart of the S&P 500 we see:
chart courtesy of StockCharts.com
In the chart above, we can see that the S&P remains just below its 200 Day Moving Average which will provide significant resistance while the MACD remains on a sell signal but momentum is turning up. Above the blue 50 Day Moving Average is rolling over and the 200 Day red line is flattening which is also a bearish indicator.
So for the time being, at least, we remain in a bearish configuration, expecting lower prices ahead.
By the way, if you share our view and expectations of lower prices, this week’s mega rally on Thursday presented some extraordinary buying opportunities on the “short” side with relatively low risk at the moment. I’ll be describing these in detail to my subscribers in our Position/Stop Loss Update this weekend.
by ilene - May 27th, 2010 1:38 pm
The M3 money supply in the United States is contracting at an accelerating rate that now matches the average decline seen from 1929 to 1933, despite near zero interest rates and the biggest fiscal blitz in history.
The M3 figures – which include broad range of bank accounts and are tracked by British and European monetarists for warning signals about the direction of the US economy a year or so in advance – began shrinking last summer. The pace has since quickened.
The stock of money fell from $14.2 trillion to $13.9 trillion in the three months to April, amounting to an annual rate of contraction of 9.6pc. The assets of insitutional money market funds fell at a 37pc rate, the sharpest drop ever.
"It’s frightening," said Professor Tim Congdon from International Monetary Research. "The plunge in M3 has no precedent since the Great Depression. The dominant reason for this is that regulators across the world are pressing banks to raise capital asset ratios and to shrink their risk assets. This is why the US is not recovering properly," he said.
The US authorities have an entirely different explanation for the failure of stimulus measures to gain full traction. They are opting instead for yet further doses of Keynesian spending, despite warnings from the IMF that the gross public debt of the US will reach 97pc of GDP next year and 110pc by 2015.
Larry Summers, President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser, has asked Congress to "grit its teeth" and approve a fresh fiscal boost of $200bn to keep growth on track. "We are nearly 8m jobs short of normal employment. For millions of Americans the economic emergency grinds on," he said.
Jr. Deputy Accountant notes:
nope, you’re not getting a check this time either…
Remember standing by the mailbox waiting for Bushy Jr’s stimulus? So let’s keep that in perspective when discussing an additional stimulus measure – proposed by cheeseburger addict and serial maniac Larry Summers. Don’t credit Obama with making this statement, he was busy here in my home base of San Francisco this week trying to whore himself out for the sake of Barbara Boxer’s reelection campaign. Sexy.
by ilene - May 17th, 2010 3:21 am
“For want of a nail . . . the kingdom was lost.” Will Greece’s debt crisis lead to a Greek debt default and the collapse of the euro and an ensuing collapse of the 27-member European Union (or EU), and trigger the next round of crashes that will be described by economic historians decades from now as “the Great Depression II”? The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife in Sarajevo, Serbia brought the tensions between Austria-Hungary and Serbia to a head. In turn, it is said this triggered a chain of international events that embroiled Russia and the major European powers; and World War I broke out in Europe. Will Greece’s debt crisis set a series of events in motion that sends the world into a downward economic spiral of unfathomable proportions?
For years, I have wrestled with the question of whether the Europe would collapse economically, politically, socially and militarily. Sounds absurd, you say? The countries are too interwoven and mutually dependent now for that to happen, and at the very least they will muddle along, making the worst of the best situations, and achieving the lowest common denominator? The United States of Europe, they are not and never will be, but they have achieved a degree of cohesiveness that I never thought was likely years ago.
I believed jealousies and rivalries and, yes, the hatreds of the past would linger barely beneath the surface, coming unglued at the most inopportune times when it really mattered the most. When the chips were down, I felt the EU would splinter and fall apart; and that its participants and the world would write it off as a noble experiment that failed, much like the League of Nations. After all, its successor—the United Nations—is considered to be a colossal joke by Americans, many of whom would love to see it shipped to Europe, and its building on the East River in Manhattan bulldozed and turned into a park, or made into co-ops or condominiums.
The bitter hatreds of the past seem to have subsided in Europe though, and it has become a cultural melting pot, more and more. Airbus was the first tangible sign of economic integration that I never thought would…
by ilene - April 6th, 2010 5:00 pm
Interview with Rick Davis of the Consumer Metrics Institute
Introduction: Richard Davis is President of the Consumer Metrics Institute (CMI). At the Institute, Rick measures real-time consumer transactions as an objective indicator of consumer demand and the associated health of the US economy. In this interview, we explore the history behind the government-published numbers and the reasons prompting Rick to devise better ways to measure the state of the economy.
Ilene: Rick, what got you interested in measuring economic numbers?
Rick: I first became frustrated with the current state of economic data after learning about the history of the collection process and the government’s continued reliance on 70 year old concepts. The government began collecting economic data during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (FDR) second term, around 1937. There was concern that the recovery from the 1937-1938 recession (i.e., a recession nested within the Great Depression) was stalling. The economy had been improving significantly from early 1933 through 1936 before the wheels came off the recovery in mid-1937. FDR’s administration realized it did not have adequate data to monitor the economy and the administration asked the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) to look into this problem. Wesley Clair Mitchell set out to find data that would help FDR’s administration address its concerns about the U.S. economy.
Wesley Clair Mitchell was a once-in-a-generation economic genius when it came to data collection. He collected over 500 interesting data sets measuring items such as sales, employment, railcar loadings--items that would allow him to constantly monitor the health of the economy. Most of these things are still measured, and the numbers have evolved into the core reports put out by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).
What frustrated me was that the data sets measured by Dr. Mitchell were developed in the 1930s and designed to capture those things that were important to the 1930s economy. They are not geared for today’s economy. Things that mattered in the mid-20th century simply cannot completely describe what is happening in the 2010 economy.
by ilene - March 27th, 2010 12:04 pm
What Does Greece Mean to You?
Courtesy of John Mauldin at Thoughts from the Frontline
In this issue:
What Does Greece Mean to Me, Dad?
Ubiquity, Complexity Theory, and Sandpiles
Fingers of Instability
Washington DC, Albuquerque, and Guy Forsythe
To trace something unknown back to something known is alleviating, soothing, gratifying and gives moreover a feeling of power. Danger, disquiet, anxiety attend the unknown – the first instinct is to eliminate these distressing states. First principle: any explanation is better than none… The cause-creating drive is thus conditioned and excited by the feeling of fear… Friedrich Nietzsche
"Any explanation is better than none." And the simpler, it seems in the investment game, the better. "The markets went up because oil went down," we are told, except when it went up there was another reason for the movement of the markets. We all intuitively know that things are far more complicated than that. But as Nietzsche noted, dealing with the unknown can be disturbing, so we look for the simple explanation.
"Ah," we tell ourselves, "I know why that happened." With an explanation firmly in hand, we now feel we know something. And the behavioral psychologists note that this state actually releases chemicals in our brains that make us feel good. We become literally addicted to the simple explanation. The fact that what we "know" (the explanation for the unknowable) is irrelevant or even wrong is not important to the chemical release. And thus we look for reasons.
How does an event like a problem in Greece (or elsewhere) affect you, gentle reader? And I mean, affect you down where the rubber hits your road. Not some formula or theory about the velocity of money or the effect of taxes on GDP. That is the question I was posed this week. "I want to understand why you think this is so important," said a friend of Tiffani. So that is what I will attempt to answer in this week’s missive, as I write a letter to my kids trying to explain the nearly inexplicable.