To ease or not to ease? That is the question we will take up this week. And if we do get another round of quantitative easing (QE2), will it make any difference? As I asked last week, what if they threw an inflation party and no one came? We will take as our launching pad today's unemployment numbers, which serve to demonstrate just why the Fed may in fact be ready for some monetary shock and awe.
81 posts tagged with “GDP”.
There are a number of economic forces in play in today's world, not all of them working in the same direction, which makes choosing policies particularly difficult. Today we finish what we started last week, the last half of the last chapter I have to write to get a rough draft of my forthcoming book, The End Game. (Right now, though, it appears this will actually be the third chapter.) We will start with a few paragraphs to help you remember where we were (or you can click here to read the first part of the chapter).
But first, I recorded two Conversations yesterday, with the CEOs of two biotech firms that are working on some of the most exciting new technologies I have come across. I found them very informative, and we will post them as soon as we get them transcribed.
For new readers, Conversations with John Mauldin is my one subscription service. While this letter will always be free, we have created a way for you to "listen in" on my conversations (or read the transcripts) with some of my friends, many of whom you will recognize and some whom you will want to know after you hear our conversations. Basically, I call one or two friends every now and then; and just as we do at dinner or at meetings, we talk about the issues of the day, back and forth, with give and take and friendly debate. I think you will find it enlightening and thought-provoking and a real contribution to your education as an investor. Plus, we throw in a series I do with Pat Cox of Breakthrough Technology Alert, where we interview some of the leading up-and-coming biotech companies; and I also do a Conversation with George Friedman of Stratfor 3-4 times a year. Quite a lot for the low price.
I recently recorded a Conversation with Mohamed El-Erian, CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO, who is one of the smartest human beings I know, as well as one of the nicest. As you can see, I can get some rather interesting people to come to the table. Current subscribers can renew for a deeply discounted $129, and we will extend that price to new subscribers as well. To learn more, go to http://www.johnmauldin.com/conversations. Click on the Subscribe button, and join me and my friends for some very interesting Conversations. (I know the price says $199 on the site, but for now you will only be charged $129 - I promise.)
All of the previous Conversations are posted and available, as well as most of the speeches from my Strategic Investment Conference a few months ago. I do work hard to make sure my subscribers get more than their money's worth. And now, to the letter.
This week you will get a kind of preview as this week's letter. I am desperately trying to finish the first draft of my book and am one chapter away from having that draft. I have promised my editor (Debra Englander) that she would see a rough draft next week, and the final version will be delivered on the last day of September. More on that process for those interested at the end of the letter. But this week's letter will be part of what will probably be the 4th or 5th chapter, where we look at the rules of economics.
There is just so little writing time left that I have to focus on that book for a little bit. I am writing this book with co-author Jonathan Tepper of Variant Perception (who is based in London), a young and very gifted Rhodes scholar with a talent for economic analysis and writing. We each write the first draft of a chapter and then go back and forth until the chapter has been much improved. Alas, gentle reader, you will only get my first draft. You will have to wait for the book to get the new, improved version. But this is the last one I have to write. And Jonathan has done all his initial chapters. We are on the home stretch.
But first, my partners at Altegris Investments have written a White Paper entitled "The New Normal: Implications for Hedge Fund Investing." It is a very instructive read. If you are in the US and have already signed up for my Accredited Investor letter, you should already have been sent a link or a copy. If not, and you are an accredited investor (basically net worth of $1.5 million or more) and would like to see the paper, or are interested in learning more about how hedge funds, commodity funds, and other absolute-return strategies might fit into your investment portfolio, I suggest you click on www.accreditedinvestor.ws and fill out the form, and a professional will get back to you. And if you live outside the US and are interested, I have partners around the world who can work with you, so you can sign up as well. (In this regard, I am president and a registered representative of Millennium Wave Securities, LLC. Member FINRA.) And now let's look at part of a chapter from The End Game.
In the pre-crisis days, I used to write about things like P/E ratios, secular bull and bear markets, valuations, and all of the things we used to think about in the Old Normal. But what about those topics as we begin our trip through the New Normal? It's time to reconvene class and think through what might change and what will remain the same. I think this will be a fun read - and let me tip my hand. I come out on the side of a new secular bull that gets us back to trend - but not just yet. The New Normal has to have its turn first. (Note: this will print out longer than usual, as there are a lot of charts.)
And speaking of first, I once again need some help from readers. I will be in "jail" next week for the Muscular Dystrophy Society. I need you to help bail me out. You can go to https://www.joinmda.org/downtowndallas2010/johnm and make a donation to help kids and families who really need help in these difficult times, and also help sponsor research that will eventually cure this disease. If you follow the link, you can see a cute video - and then make your donation!
I thank you and I am sure Jerry's kids thank you too!
This week I spoke to a small group of businessmen/entrepreneurs about the current economic environment, and after my presentation one asked me whether I didn't have any good news for them, with a kind of gallows humor laugh. And I tried. But upon reflection there is more I could have said, so this week's letter will be what I should have said to be a little more encouraging.
The group was a Vistage group in which my daughter Tiffani participates. This is an organization of 12 businesspeople (in this case all CEOs of small businesses) who meet once a month to share and learn about better business practices, accountability, planning, and all the aspects of running a business. Every person I have ever met who has been involved in Vistage has had good things to say about it. I have watched it help Tiffani a lot. She truly runs our business now, allowing me to read and write and travel and speak. I am a very lucky man and proud Dad.
I have particularly watched my partners at Altegris really truly transform their business model through their involvement with Vistage. First the CEO, Jon Sundt, joined, and now the partners have all joined Vistage groups focusing on their roles in the business. Sundt was always a good businessman, but the level of professionalism of his whole company has gone up a notch. It is a pleasure to watch them grow, and they give Vistage a large measure of the credit for their success. In fact, when I went to the Vistage web site to get the link, I saw a brief video of Sundt talking about his experience. ( http://www.vistage.com/) I am proud to be their partner.
If you have a business and could use some help and professional mentoring, you should look into finding a Vistage group that works for you. They match businesspeople in different industries but with roughly same size businesses. In tough times you need all the help you can get.
I talked to them about the current economic environment and what I saw coming down the road. Long-time readers know that I think we are in for an extended period of slow growth, high and sticky unemployment, and volatile markets punctuated by more frequent recessions. That is what you get when you have a deleveraging environment resulting from a credit crisis. It is what happens when the Debt Supercycle ends. We start the journey to the New Normal and it just takes time.
Sadly, I find myself with more than enough time to compose yet another Thoughts from the Frontline in an airport, as a flight booking error has me at JFK for six hours instead of fishing in Maine. Details for those interested or amused at the end. But it does allow me to offer you a peek into a very sobering report on how badly underfunded public pension are. The situation is worse than you think. Then we will close with a eye-opening report on China from the gracious Simon Hunt, who is allowing me to reprint his latest missive in toto. You really want to read this one. And we start with this rumor from Reuters, just in. Read this and weep. It comes from James Pethokoukis.
"...[this economic condition] has been brought about by policies which the majority of economists recommended and even urged governments to pursue. We have indeed at the moment little cause for pride: as a profession we have made a mess of things."
—Friedrich August von Hayek, Nobel Speech
Those of us who have taken young children on long road trips to somewhere they wanted to go are familiar with the plaintive question "Are We There Yet?" As a nation and indeed the developed world, it is not unreasonable to be asking "Are We There Yet?" about the road to recovery. The NBER, those self-appointed economists who are the official keepers of the score sheet of recessions and recoveries, have yet to tell us we are out of recession. Yet the economy is growing. Kind of. Today we look at the most recent data on second-quarter US GDPÊ (which came out this morning), and even though it is backward-looking data, we'll see what we can discern that might help us chart the direction of the future. And then, if there is time, I'll highlight what is a very serious and growing problem for our state and local governments. There is a lot to cover and so, with no "but firsts," let's dive in.
I have been writing about The End Game for some time now. And writing a book of the same title. Consequently, I have been thinking a lot about how the credit crisis evolved into the sovereign debt crisis, and how it all ends. Today we explore a few musings I have had of late, while we look at some very interesting research. What will a world look like as a variety of nations have to deal with the end of their Debt Supercycle. We'll jump right in with no "but first's" this week.
Part of this week's writing is colored by my next conference. Next week I go to Vancouver to speak at the Agora Investment Symposium. I have a number of very good friends who will be there, both speaking and attending. This is generally a "hard money," gold-bug-type crowd (and a very large conference). Some (but not all) of the speakers believe that all fiat currencies, including the US dollar, will default in one way or another, either outright or through inflation, as mounting debts and out-of-control entitlement obligations force large-scale monetization, leading to high inflation if not hyperinflation.
There are a couple of panels and debates that I presume I will be involved in, and I have been meditating on how the panels will go. Bill Bonner, founder of Agora and a book-writing machine, has a steel-trap mind with an ability to turn a phrase that is way beyond that of your humble analyst. The preponderance of the panel members will likely be in the soft-depression camp, and most of us will card-carrying members of the Often Wrong but Seldom in Doubt school of economics and investing (the Latin for which, I am told, is "Saepe mendosus, nunquam dubius.") And yet, I am not quite there with most of that thinking, so the debates will be lively.
Understand, I started in the newsletter business back in 1981 or so, working with Dr. Gary North (also known as "Scary Gary"). Gary is an Austrian, and although I took a lot of economics courses at Rice, I had never read anything even remotely close to the Austrian school. I caught up rather quickly, and in the mid-1980s even wrote my own gold-stock newsletter (although I must admit I know next to nothing of the current gold-stock world). I was mostly limited to books, newsletters, and journals for reading material.
Then came the mid '90s and the internet, and the world opened up. I became incurably addicted to information and read widely and deeply. At some point the small lens of Austrian thought became difficult to continue to peer through, as I looked for perspectives on the larger world. I now worship at a number of economic altars, in the ongoing effort to understand what is happening in the real world, not just in the world of theory or the world of what we would like to be. So, with that background, let's look at The End Game.
We are halfway through the year (where did the time go?) and it is time to make some predictions about the last half of the year. This week we look at what the leading indicators are telling us, size up a new indicator, drop in on banking data, and do a whole lot more.
Quickly, I will be on Larry Kudlow's show next Tuesday, which is at 7 pm Eastern. Larry has promised that we will spend some quality time on some of the current issues facing us. See you there! And now, let's jump in.
I am on record as saying I think there is a 50-50 chance we slip back into recession in 2011, as I think the economy will soften in the latter half of the year and a large tax increase in 2011 (from the expiring Bush tax cuts) will tip us into recession.
This was not based on data, but rather on research which shows that tax cuts or tax increases have as much as a 3-times multiplier effect on the economy. If you cut taxes by 1% of GDP then you get as much as a 3% boost in the economy. The reverse is true for tax increases. Christina Romer, Obama's head of the Council of Economic Advisors, did the research along with her husband, so this is not a Republican conclusion.
If the economy is growing at less than 2% by the end of the year, then a tax increase of more than 1% of GDP could and probably would be the tipping point. Add in an almost equal amount of state and local tax increases (and spending cuts) and you have the recipe for a full-blown recession - at least the way I see it.
I was asked at my recent speech in Milan, what sorts of things could make me wrong? There are a few. First, it could be that tax increases and cuts don't matter. Some very smart people (like Paul McCulley) feel that tax increases on the wealthy don't really figure into Romer's analysis.
"Everyone" is upset with the level of fiscal deficits being run by nearly every developed country. And with much justification. The levels of fiscal deficits are unsustainable and threaten to bring many countries to the desperate situation that Greece now finds itself in. We must balance the budget is the cry of fiscal conservatives. But there are unseen consequences in moving both too fast or too slow in the effort to get the deficits under control. Today we look at them as we explore what a fine mess we have gotten ourselves into. (I am working without internet today so the letter will be shorter with fewer references than normal.)
We have discussed the above equation before, but let's look at it again from a different angle. Basically, the equation is another accounting identity. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for a given country is the total of Consumption (personal and business) plus Investments plus Government spending plus exports minus imports.
The Keynesians argue that when there is a drop in C due to a recession that the G must rise to offset the drop. That was at the heart of the argument for stimulus packages in so many countries. And there is no doubt that stimulus did help keep a very deep recession from turning into an even deeper depression. One can legitimately argue about the size of the stimulus, or about the nature of the spending, but it is difficult to argue that it did not have an effect.
Now, of course, the hope is that a recovery will allow C to begin to rise so that there is no more need for government deficits. Keynes argued that governments should run surpluses in good times, which is conveniently forgotten by most government spending types. The problem is that we are still running massive deficits. Tax receipts are way down (10% unemployment will do that to you!) and show no sign of turning back up soon all over the developed world.
If you reduce government spending, that also has a negative effect on GDP in the short run. But in past recoveries the growth of the private sector has overcome that negative effect. Normally at this time in a recovery growth is in the 7% range. This is a very tepid recovery in the US and the developed world.