The Great Depression 2.0
September 22, 2009 · Posted in General Economics
As I already pointed out many times, there are a lot of parallels between the current depression and the one from 1929.
Some interesting charts Hussman posted on his blog today compare the current bear market rally with the biggest one from the Great Depression:
Here is a chart of the S&P 500 in weekly data. Note that the market easily and repeatedly breached the lower green bands during the decline, so we should not assume that these bands provide reliable guidance for buying or selling. The recent advance has moved the market the full distance from lower to upper bands, however, which typically does not go uncorrected.
The following chart may look the same as the above chart. But it is from April 1930.
The market recovered by an almost identical percentage following the 1929 crash, peaking in April 1930, after which it suffered a subsequent decline to fresh lows. The point here is not that the same outcome will necessarily follow in this instance, but that we would be remiss not to consider the fact that investors were equally cheerful in early 1930, when the front page of the Wall Street Journal featured an article entitled “A Turn of the Tide Near” assuring investors: “It cannot be imagined that the wholesale failures and interest defaults characteristic of earlier depressions will now be repeated. Confidence in our banking system wholly precludes the money panics of former eras.”
Hussman observes the parallels in the index movement from lower to upper bands, and suggests that the current market might be headed in the same direction. I would recommend to at least seriously consider this possibility in all your decisions.
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.
If it was our dear government’s objective to repeat the playbook from the Great Depression one by one, then they have indeed succeeded phenomenally.