More specifically, there hasn’t been a period of negative net private saving that hasn’t resulted in a depression or at least a very severe recession, such as the so called Great Recession of 2008.
Recent Q4 data paints a shockingly bleak picture:
The government’s deficit (red line) has gone from a Q3 level to around -$900 billion to a surplus of around $15 billion in Q4. As you can see, the private sector’s net saving (blue line) has correspondingly crashed from a positive $538 billion to a -$499 billion (!!), with the foreign sector’s saving (green line, inversed) also expanding a little bit.
The way to reverse this trend would be massive government budget deficits or a monumental reversal in the US current account deficit. If this doesn’t happen in the current and future quarters, a huge recession is now all of a sudden in the cards, even though private sector leverage has remained low, when compared to 2008 levels, for now.
Sings, signs, everywhere a sign. The evidence is now in that even by official standards the US has slipped back into recession. NBER is usually 6 months to a year late when it comes to calling recessions, so don’t hold your breath for their announcement anytime soon.
A report from Wells Fargo says Alabama’s economy has likely fallen into a recession, but two economic experts in Alabama have a different outlook.
The report from the San Francisco-based bank said Alabama was one of 12 states experiencing an economic contraction in July and “likely slipped into a recession.”
The report, written by senior economist Mark Vitner and economist Michael A Brown, said more states “are likely to fall into negative territory within the next six months” because of a persistent decline in manufacturing jobs.
Confidence among U.S. consumers plunged to the lowest level in more than two years as Americans’ outlooks for employment and incomes soured.
The Conference Board’s index slumped to 44.5, the weakest since April 2009, from a revised 59.2 reading in July, figures from the New York-based research group showed today. It was the biggest point drop since October 2008. A separate report showed home prices declined for a ninth month.
A few more quarters and NBER will likely back-date this fresh new recession to Q2 or Q3 of 2011.
Some more I wrote about the inevitability of a double dip recession:
“It is important though to recognise if we keep on adding to the debt, even in the midst of this recovery, that at some point, people could lose confidence in the US economy in a double-dip recession,” said Mr Obama.
“It’s about as hard of a play as there is,” Mr Obama said, adding that his team was trying to set up a “pathway long term for deficit reduction” without pulling a lot of money out of the economy in the short term via tax rises or spending cuts.
The mood in the US has already swung in favour of deficit reduction, with Republicans attacking Democrats’ plans for more spending to support jobs.
Washington-based analysts said the president was probably trying to prepare public opinion for a tough budget in February – while leaving open some space for measures to reduce unemployment, now at 10.2 per cent.
It is obvious that the public has had it with excessive spending and deficits. That didn’t seem to worry the President much so far. But the Chinese government must have clearly made him understand that they have had enough as well.
The government is beginning to hit a wall. There is not a whole lot further it can go in the short term at this point. This is not to say that they will suddenly embrace true fiscal responsibility and start paying down the public debt. That will most likely continue to pile up for many years to come, just as it did in Japan. But they need to get the ongoing shortfalls of revenue vs. spending under control, hit the breaks, slow down the additions to the debt.
The worst of all is that all the recent spending sprees have made things a lot worse, artificially created demands for goods that we simply didn’t need any more of, propped up prices that needed to continue to fall, revitalized irresponsible habits that needed to end.
The key thing to keep in mind in all of this: The recent rally, green shoots, and recovery hopes have been created and/or fueled by massive government expenses, and by a believe in the omnipotence of our leaders in Washington.
But government spending sprees, too, will have to come to an end sooner or later. On top of that, all that the recent government programs have accomplished is to get marginal individuals back to the same flawed habits, such as owning unaffordable homes, buying too many cars, etc.
The interest that the government has to pay on its debts when it runs up sky high deficits, and the taxes it will have to raise in order to make those payments, will be hanging over the recovery like a Damocles Sword. The Federal Reserve, too, will be faced with a similar situation. Let’s assume, for the sake of the argument, that lending activity on homes, cars, etc. were to pick up again. What will the Fed do then? Cut interest rates? Add more bank reserves? Surely not, quite the opposite.
Once existing stimulus programs and credit expansion attempts subside, there won’t be much left to pick up the slack. The consumer won’t be able to go back to business as usual unless he goes through a long period of reduced consumption, deleveraging, and savings, a period during which the majority of production and spending inside the US will have to be focused on capital goods, so as to restore a balanced ratio between the production of consumer goods and the production of capital goods.
At the point when these government stimuli wind down, Keynesian clowns will be jumping out of the bushes left and right, and demand that the government take on more debt and spend more money. But at some point their mindless tirades will no longer appeal to an overtaxed and overleveraged populace. Their ivory tower nonsense will be way too far detached from simple realities.
Any temporary recovery we witness now, is likely to be remembered as just that, a temporary phenomenon. All actions taken so far have set the perfect stage for a double dip recession of enormous proportions, the worst possible prolongation of the necessary correction.
What is the Fed doing?
Is there much more it can do at this point? Have you heard them announce any more of their great new lending facilities in recent months?
Most notably, the Fed has begun to repay the Treasury’s investment made at the end of last year, the so called Supplementary Financing Account. It had been hovering at around $200 billion for the previous 8 months. It has now dropped to $19 billion as per the latest weekly reports. It may be completely dissolved by the end of this month. This, to me, is one of the biggest signs that even the Fed itself has begun to wind down stimuli and is trying to get its books in order, if such a thing is even possible…
Here is Meredith Whitney’s take on the coming double dip recession:
Total US Credit and Loans have now contracted by $979 billion since their peak in October 2008:
The annual growth rate has turned negative for the first time since beginning of the the weekly recordings, and and as far as I could find now posts the biggest annual decline since the great depression:
Keep in mind that all this has happened in spite of an environment of renewed optimism and confidence that the economy will bounce back hard.
The biggest surprises and catastrophes always occur when public opinion is completely out of whack with reality. Now is such a situation. How much longer it will last no one knows. But rest assured that a double dip is on the horizon…