Tuesday, April 28, 2009

the stimulus gloves are off


In a recent issue of Grant's Interest Rate Observer, Jim Grant charted the stimulus money (both monetary policy and government spending) as a percentage of gross domestic product for this downturn, compared with the previous 13 recessions.

In those earlier recessions, if you added all the percentages, the cumulative monetary stimuli constituted about 6 percentage points, while thus far in this recession, the stimuli have clocked in at 18%. Add in the 11.9% (of GDP) supplied by the government and you get 29.9% for the combined stimuli. That's compared with a total of 39.3 percentage points for the prior 13 recessions combined.

It's also already 4 times the New Deal's percentage of GDP!

Yes, I'd say the gloves are off. By the time the dust settles, you may not recognize the economic landscape.


"GOP: like Trekkies, but paranoid."

BILL MAHER: "It's been a week now, and I still don't know what those "tea bag" protests were about. I saw signs protesting abortion, illegal immigrants, the bank bailout and that gay guy who's going to win "American Idol." But it wasn't tax day that made them crazy; it was election day. Because that's when Republicans became what they fear most: a minority.

The conservative base is absolutely apoplectic because, because ... well, nobody knows.

They're mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore. Even though they're not quite sure what "it" is. But they know they're fed up with "it," and that "it" has got to stop.

Here are the big issues for normal people: the war, the economy, the environment, mending fences with our enemies and allies, and the rule of law.

And here's the list of Republican obsessions since President Obama took office: that his birth certificate is supposedly fake, he uses a teleprompter too much, he bowed to a Saudi guy, Europeans like him, he gives inappropriate gifts, his wife shamelessly flaunts her upper arms, and he shook hands with Hugo Chavez and slipped him the nuclear launch codes.

Do these sound like the concerns of a healthy, vibrant political party?

It's sad what's happened to the Republicans. They used to be the party of the big tent; now they're the party of the sideshow attraction, a socially awkward group of mostly white people who speak a language only they understand. Like Trekkies, but paranoid.... "



Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bottom? What bottom?

April 15, 2009
© 2009 Decision Economics, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without the written permission of the copyright owner is prohibited.
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Industrial Production: No hint of a turn
March industrial production drops a more-than-generally-expected 1.5% (Consensus: -0.9%; Decision Economics: -
1.5%), from a minimally revised February level.
Within the total, manufacturing output dropped 1.7%, mining activity ell 3.2%, and utility output rose 1.8%. The
auto industry was a minimal factor in the manufacturing decline, with factory output excluding motor vehicles and
parts dropping 1.9%, across virtually all industries.
Thus, there was no hint that the process of inventory liquidation is drawing to a close. When it does, production
can be expected to bounce back up to meet the pace of sales--at whatever depressed level that may be. The turn will
not be pre-announced, and might happen at any time--but the strong downward momentum of output, and the
still very uncertain trend of final sales, suggest that the moment is not too near.
Ongoing big output declines expand industrial slack capacity (with the manufacturing utilization rate falling 1.1
points), and can lead to further employment cuts. Those trends generally argue for an increasing downward pull
on goods prices--which may, already, be in outright decline.


Head fake from financials?

Goldman Sachs (GS) And The Secret Of Bank Earnings - 24/7 Wall Street
Goldman’s results were unexpectedly good. The company said it earned $1.81 billion, or $3.39 a share, in the first quarter as improved trading revenue outweighed asset write-downs, handily beating the $1.64 estimate of 16 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

While Goldman’s earnings were good, what was better was that the company said it would raise $5 billion and use that and capital on hand to pay back the $10 billion of TARP funds it got from the federal government. The “payback” is the key sign that the Goldman results are the real deal. Wells Fargo did not offer the government a check. It said it hoped to, someday. That is almost certainly a sign that the bank can’t make the payment now or it needs to keep the cash it has for estimated losses in future quarters.

Goldman set a tone for bank earnings which probably won’t be matched this earnings season. By paying the TARP funds it said that it did not have to worry about the next few quarters. It is not concerned that losses from toxic assets, consumer credit, commercial lending, or leveraged buy-outs will be a problem later this year. Goldman implied that its earnings won’t be undermined by the troubles that may affect other financial firms as the economy continues to stumble and bank loans of almost every sort default with increasing frequency.

None of the other banks are going to be able to pull off what Goldman did.