Posts Tagged ‘leveraging’

THE DETERIORATING MACRO PICTURE

THE DETERIORATING MACRO PICTURE

Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist 

a statue of a man levering a rock with a stick

Over the course of the last 18 months I’ve been adhering to a macro view that can best be summed up as follows:

1) The explosion in private sector debt (excessive housing borrowing, excessive corporate debt, etc) levels would reveal the private sector as unable to sustain positive economic growth, de-leveraging and deflation would ensue.

2) Government intervention would help moderately boost aggregate demand, improve bank balance sheets, improve sentiment, boost asset prices but fail to result in sustained economic recovery as private sector balance sheet recession persists.

3)  Extremely depressed estimates and corporate cost cutting would improve margins and generate a moderate earnings rebound, but would come under pressure in 2010 as margin expansion failed to continue at the 2009 rate.

4)  The end of government intervention in H2 2010 will reveal severe strains in housing and will reveal the private sector as still very weak and unable to sustain economic growth on its own.

The rebound in assets was surprisingly strong and the ability of corporations to sustain bottom line growth has been truly impressive – far better than I expected.  However, I am growing increasingly concerned that the market has priced in overly optimistic earnings sustainability – in other words, estimates and expectations have overshot to the upside.

What we’ve seen over the last few years is not terribly complex in my opinion.  The housing boom created what was in essence a massively leveraged household sector.  The problems were compounded by the leveraging in the financial sector, however, this was merely a symptom of the real underlying problem and not the cause of the financial crisis (despite what Mr. Bernanke continues to say and do to fix the economy).

As the consumer balance sheet imploded the economy imploded with it.  This shocked aggregate demand like we haven’t seen in nearly a century. This resulted in collapsing corporate revenues.  The decrease in corporate revenues, due to this decline in aggregate demand, resulted in massive cost cutting and defensive posturing by corporations.  This exacerbated the problems as job losses further weakened the consumer balance sheet position.  Consumers, like, corporations, got defensive and began cutting expenses and paying down liabilities.  Sentiment collapsed and we all know what unfolded in 2008.

The government responded by largely targeting the banking sector based on the belief that fixing the banks would fix Main…
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An Unusually Cheery Set of Links

An Unusually Cheery Set of Links

By inoculatedinvestor, courtesy of Zero Hedge

Intro: "For a change, this week I decided to only comment on links that suggest that everything in the world is rosy and that the US is already in the middle of an impressively sound V-shaped recovery. Too bad I couldn’t find anyone who argued either of those points credibly. Oh well, guess everyone will have to settle for yet another dose of reality."  

Peggy NoonanPeggy Noonan pulls no punches: In one of her latest missives in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan poses a very simple question. Do today’s leaders of America really care about the future of this country? I often worry that the re-election cycle has gotten so short and the incentive to pass the burden onto future lawmakers is now so pervasive that we can do no better than short-sighted, even foolish near term fixes to current problems. Extend and pretend when it comes to financial companies and kick the can down the road when it comes to the bulging deficit seem to have become the official policies in Washington. Clearly, no one wants to force any more pain on already strained American households. But at what point do the consequences of the actions being taken actually become magnitudes worse than the painful rebalancing and restructuring we could choose to face today? It is within this context that Noonan posits an interesting theory. Her premise is that the current leaders have lived in a period of such US prosperity that they are essentially too arrogant to even contemplate the idea that country could be in the midst of a lasting decline:

When I see those in government, both locally and in Washington, spend and tax and come up each day with new ways to spend and tax—health care, cap and trade, etc.—I think: Why aren’t they worried about the impact of what they’re doing? Why do they think America is so strong it can take endless abuse?
 
I think I know part of the answer. It is that they’ve never seen things go dark. They came of age during the great abundance, circa 1980-2008 (or 1950-2008, take your pick), and they don’t have the habit of worry. They talk about their "concerns"—they’re big on that word. But they’re not really


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