Why is this economy not yet in an official recession?
What if it’s really different this time? What if eight years of radical monetary policies have altered the way things work to such an extent that the normal economic patterns no longer apply, that the economy has entered far into a new territory where ultra-cheap credit sloshes around, and where – instead of short, sharp recessions that clean out the cobwebs and help economic actors slough off excess debt at the expense of creditors – we get years of quagmire interrupted by mild declines and false-hope rises, even as the debt burden continues to grow and grow to suffocate all hopes at economic growth?
There have been plenty of symptoms of this. Here is one more: business investment – which plays an outsize role in economic growth. And it just booked its worst September since 2010.
The Census Bureau reported today that orders for durable goods – products and equipment designed to last over three years – inched up $2.4 billion in September, or 1% from a year ago (not seasonally adjusted), on a $4.5-billion year-over-year surge of defense capital goods. So excluding defense, orders fell 2.3% year-over-year.
Excluding defense and aircraft – to approximate business investment – orders fell 3.6% year-over-year (not seasonally adjusted).
This sort of decline in business spending has now become the rule. Until recently, some of it was in part due to the oil-and-gas industry’s cutbacks. But they have now mostly run their course. New money is pouring into the industry. The rig count has been rising for months. And executives are swearing up and down to their investors and creditors that the “worst is behind us.” So the year-over-year decline in September was hardly the fault of just the oil & gas industry.
And the decline has become a pattern that doesn’t match the prior patterns of declines.
The chart below shows 22 years of orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft – the approximation for business investment. Orders surged before recessions and formed a clearly identifiable peak either just before the official recession began (2000) or after it began (2008). Then orders plunged as companies struggled with their debts or restructured them, often in bankruptcy court, and they curtailed their investments in equipment for a while. Sometime near the end of the recession, companies began again to buy more capital goods, and orders rebounded sharply for years.
But this time the pattern broke. This time, it’s truly different. After the Financial Crisis, orders rebounded sharply, as before, but then peaked in March 2012 at $70.06 billion and began to wobble up and down for over two years. In September 2014, they eked out a new peak of $70.67 billion – and have since lost their footing altogether (adjusted seasonally but not for inflation):
This chart uses seasonally adjusted data, so the numbers are slightly different than the unadjusted numbers I mentioned earlier. On a seasonally adjusted basis, orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft in September, at $62.94 billion, were down:
- -1.2% from September 2015
- -11% from September 2014
- -4.7% from September 2013
- -0.6% from September 2012
- -5.1% from September 2011.
You have to go back all the way to September 2010 to find lower business investment!
None of the data in this article is adjusted for inflation. So inflation adjustments would make the multi-year decline in business investment look much worse.
This is what is different now: Cheap credit and excess liquidity allow companies to pile on more debt – often to buy back their own shares or buy out each other – and trudge on while yield-desperate creditors fork over ever more money. But where is this record amount of borrowed money not going? Capital goods. Hence the drag on the economy – but without pushing the economy into an official recession though it keeps teetering on the edge.
So what if this teetering economy, burdened by a record amount of debt, got sideswiped by one more thing?
New orders for motor vehicles and parts rose 2% year-over-year, “a sign of steady consumer spending,” as the media called it. Since the Financial Crisis, new vehicle sales jumped every year to set a record in 2015. But this year, sales have been flat. In September, they declined. In October, they’re expected to fall 7% year-over year.
Automakers are throwing large incentives into the market to create demand. But inventories on dealer lots are piling up and dealers are cutting their orders. Earlier in October, Ford announced plant closings and layoffs to achieve production cuts. Other manufacturers will follow. In turn, they’ll cut orders to their suppliers. But the survey-based Census data for September durable goods hasn’t quite caught up yet with this new reality.
A “car recession,” as the industry is calling it, impacts the economy in many ways: raw materials, manufacturing, employment, transportation (rail and truck), finance, etc. It hits GDP via consumer spending and other components. Booming auto sales have been a big pillar under the otherwise shaky economy. But that pillar is now beginning to crumble too.
Ford put it this way: “We continue to match production with demand.” It Starts: Shutdowns, Production Cuts, Layoffs at Auto Plants
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Depends on what’s “investment”. Google’s revenue is up 20%, that’s what “investment” amounts to nowadays, building a huge goodwill for acquirers to digest, leading to the inevitable write down. What’s not to like?
Look at the years where it turned down. Right about 2,000 when
repeal of Glass-Steagall kicked in ( thanks Bill Clinton). That is when investments in manufacturing began going down and financial investment went up. Had it not been for the housing bubble, that downward line would have found a bottom on it’s own…somewhere. The housing boom took that line back up until that bubble popped. The next up cycle is ‘cash for clunkers’, massive government spending and free money, the new heroin. Well the heroin is wearing thin and the folks who have always kept the economy afloat are BROKE. 100 million on welfare, and the middle class fast tracked to the same spot, student debt slavery, and lets have more immigration competing for the few decent jobs left.
The working class has been stiffed, and taken the pay cuts. You don’t see CEO’s and Wall Street taking a pay cuts and they can only buy so many Apple watches and washing machines.
Money and power wash each others hands, and there is none left for productivity and real investment. And they like it that way.
Crashes were few and far between until 1999.
Bill Clinton deregulated Wall St. and unlocked all that shareholder value for the parasites. Now companies make money merging with each other and firing employees. Each iteration requires a bigger merger and more layoffs.
Hurry up and vote Clinton, we have the government and economy we deserve.
And the Clinton’s will be standing in the economic line of fire when the collapse comes. Karma is like hitting a golf ball in a small closet. But…voting for the orange gropper is an act of insanity. Don’t blame me, I voted for Bernie Sanders!
Yes, Petunia Bill was buying in and had the help of a Congress that voted for the change. There were some that voted “NO” but those were chastised as “socialists” and “anti-business”. Some 25% of our economy is based on financial transactions, computer entries with very little use of our natural resources, and more involvement in foreign affairs. The Drug industry accounts for 19% of our economy, pacifying us with assured better health.
Everyone is treading water, nobody is making any real moves out of the swamp because there is no where to go. With a bazillion people delivering pizzas to a staggering middle class giving facials and massage, it’s all looking up from here. The number of people with a REAL job and reliable income in a steadily growing industry is vanishingly small. Yet, these are the people the government tax hammer hits the hardest. But there’s more: the financialization of the economy has obliterated start-ups and THAT is where growth in this country begins – forget the whales sloshing around and the crony capitalists at the government trough – it is a handful of people with an idea and persistence that is and always has been and will be the ONLY growth factor in this world and right now, you can’t find them anymore. Why? Because for the most part, the hassle, they have found out the hard way, is just not worth it.
“the hassle, they have found out the hard way, is just not worth it.”
You could have continued with the barriers to entry faced by contemporary entrepreneurs. Everywhere you turn you’re going to stand off against big businesses that have made an industry out of looking out for new market niches and can instantly crowd out anything you might have going. Very simply, start-ups are hopelessly outclassed. Any bit of unmet demand you might discover is going to get hoovered up by a national chain with infinite access to the resources you lack before you can get off the bench. It’s always been tough but it just gets tougher.
One old standard start-up technique involved working up a niche that was too small or too specialized or lacking sufficient profit for a bigger company to bother with. But now they’re pursuing them just so they themselves can avoid stagnation.
Retail is getting into it. Bookstores are starting up in-store cafes. Big-box hardware stores are starting up specialty services. Dealerships are adding rental offices. Jewelry stores are selling snacks. They’re all trying to add something to make an extra half a buck on to try to stay afloat.
I could look up some statistics to show this but that would just depress me.
I increasingly see extremely smart people leave technology to go into flipping homes, or ‘home restoration’ as they smartly position themselves! They realize the tech world is not worth the hassle when an easy buck can be made with access to easy credit. Plus their competition is sparse (true competition as brainy as them) and they have alot of fun. One family I know has convinced their High School-aged son to avoid college altogether to pursue a life in sales and entrepreneurship.
This is a serious finance blog, Bill. Satire is down the hall to the left.
Can I but regain my credit can I spend spent cash again
Hide me from my deep emotion O thou wonderful champagne
Make me feel the wild pulsation I have often felt before
When my horse went on before me and my hack was at the door
let’s hope the center can hold.
Let’s throw patent trolls into the pot while we are at it. You can’t start anything remotely successful before some patent trolls sends in the lawyers.
Only big corporations with legal departments and a patent portfolios of their own can face the threat, mainly by countersuing if necessary.
Speculation was, Google bought Motorola for their patents.
I suggest…no I emphatically urge all of you to see Norm Chomsky’s “Requiem for the American Dream”. In black and white is the answer why we all feel like fools who can’t get the horse to budge.
As for the article “Excluding defense and aircraft …..” That is the problem. The smell of REAL war is in the air, the media talks about it everyday. The politicians are chanting it, pounding the table for it. Oil is counting on it. REAL war talked about, with mushroom clouds folks, like it is a walk in the park on a sunny day. So who feels like investing when for the first time since the 60’s there are no school desks to hide under and no holes in the backyard?
I don’t feel like buying anything either except maybe can goods and bottled water.
Wars are fought on oceans of oil. Lyndon Johnson escalated the Vietnam war to increase the oil prices for his Texas oilmen supporters. Hillary will do the same, even the Bush family agrees.
That’s what scares me every day. I know that every major war had a prelude where it was talked about and then dismissed as utter non-sense, until it wasn’t. I am afraid the stars are lining up, but hope that I am wrong.
It was no mere speculation.
Google may be a member of the FANG, but its patent portfolio is ridiculously small relative to company size. In particular it left for many years Google itself and smartphone manufacturers using the Android OS open to patent infringement claims from… drumroll… Microsoft.
In 2011 or 2012 Google hired well known IP lawyer Allen Lo as deputy general counsel. Lo found that Google had both a skimpish patent portfolio and a pathetically undersized IP department and set about straightening the situation: I am pretty sure Lo, whose law firm previously worked for Google, had a hand in convincing the company to buy Motorola, among others, precisely to beef up the patent portfolio with an eye on potential lawsuits.
“Years of quagmire followed by false hope and mild recession…
Sounds like Japan. Maybe this is what infinite monetary policy creates?
Yes, I thought of Japan being the world’s second-largest economy in the 2000 and 2008 economic busts where now we have China as #2. That is a big factor, as well, since their approach to trade and growth differs from Japans. Also, we have not had a recent spike in prices of oil and commodities as we did in 2000 and 2008. Oil prices were driven down by the fracking industry as some suspect to weaken ISIS and/or Russia economically.
Reminds me of Slurms McKenzie, the party animal who’s required by contract to party all night, every night as a sales promotional campaign.
I heard that the ECRI (Economic Cycle Research Institute) is so good at collecting data, but when i go to the web site :
I look over the graphs and it appears everything is just fine, even more than fine, but from all my reading and my own thinking I think things are totally different!
It’s puzzling to me how things could be as they show on the charts.
This sort of decline in business spending has now become the rule. Until recently, some of it was in part due to the oil-and-gas industry’s cutbacks. But they have now mostly run their course.
Has it? US oil producers are shorting WTI futures the most since 2007 upon failed OPEC production cut talks. Such talk is responsible for crude inching up as of late. But we all know about the shallowness of all talk and no action. At least US oil producers do. Maybe.
The price may drop. And production may rise. But I don’t think they will cut capital expenditures much more. That part has pretty much run its course. If I look at the money flows, it looks like investors are pouring money back into it (bonds, PE firms, banks, even bankrupt drillers are getting money to drill…). And some of that money would lead to investment in capital goods.
Better to say large specs are extreme long … commercials are just the takers of the long side. Suggests a drop is coming.
THAT is a VERY UGLY. Long term triple top, in that chart, which is also a minor rounded top.
It fits perfectly, my position for some time.
That we are in a long term sideways/range until the NPL’S are resolved. Not tucked under the rug or turned into National debt against the Taxpayer. But resolved and out of the system.
If you turn NPL’S into National debt you have to reduce the debt by the size of the NPL’S. Otherwise you are simply rolling the NPL’S. Whereby their polluting effect’s, will still be in the economy..
As the system is full of puss dating back to 1997, made up of truckload’s of QE cash and NPL’S.
The real economy outsid the QE induced bubbles has peaked, it cant dump, as the QE induced bubbles are holding the paper markets up.
But, BIG BIG but, the “Real Economy” isnt making any real money either. In fact it isn’t even going sideways. It is in a very slow recessive spiral. Tied to the declining disposable income of the consumer pool. More people allegedly have job’s. However the total disposable consumer $ #, as a % GDP, is going. DOWN.
Your declining commercial investment numbers, show this.
And almost everybody who comes here admits, the consumers “Disposable Income” is shrinking and that O bummers inflation number’s are in a BS competition, with the CCP chinese GDP numbers.
This is not just an American problem it is a global problem and it will continue untill:
The Global NPL problem is resolved, by progressively managing the liquidation of the debtors, in a controlled manner.
There is a Global correction event, that wipes out the debtors and the majority of their Creditors.
china and club med, do not wish to play the. Controlled resolution game, so watch out for B.
Ranges can go on in charts for decades until something causes a breakout.
There seems to be 8 years (APP) between the bottom’s 02 – 09 (APP) and they sort of tie up with election cycles. So at the moment the question is does the chart crash 01 – 08 or slide to a 2017-18 bottom under granny C ?? or do we break up??
Trump = Crash, bigger than O bummer win crash.
We should revisit that chart, end Jan 17.
It is useless to do so before, as you have: nov event, then dec fomc, then holiday and lame duck actions, and trouble made by trumpty dumpty, to consider.
To many big variables in a short time frame balanced against long term business decisions.
The last time the fed wasn’t paying interest on time deposits.
Its like farmers getting paid not to plant?
No matter how slow interest rates tick up member banks continue to thrive on carried interest and ” mark to fantasy ” accounting?
Once the blackout period ends companies will be buying back stock to defend price instead of juicing earnings?
First comes talk of stimulus than we admit the recession!
It’s been eight years since 2008 and the global economy hasn’t recovered.
Central bank monetary policy is not the answer.
All explained by Richard Koo:
He gives graphs of bank reserves and shows the ridiculous surplus the BoE, BoJ, FED and ECB have created.
It’s not working because people aren’t borrowing.
The QE money just stays in the financial system and doesn’t enter the real economy this is why inflation figures are so low around the world.
These excesses in bank reserves are going into financial speculation, blowing bubbles and leading us into the next crash.
Fiscal policy is the answer.
Perhaps we should all listen to the man Ben Bernanke listened to.
His name is Richard Koo (same link):
He explains the mistake Christina Romer made analysing data from the Great Depression leading Central Banks to think they could get us over 2008 with monetary policy.
In the first 12 mins.
At 54 mins. you can see the IMF projection for Greek recovery with austerity and see the horrifying reality.
When the US was panicking about the fiscal cliff it was because Ben Bernanke had read Richard Koo’s book and knew cutting Government spending would drive the US economy into recession.
The secret is in how money works, which is why hardly any economists understand either the problem or the solution.
Money and debt are opposite sides of the same coin.
If there is no debt there is no money.
Money is created by loans and destroyed by repayments of those loans.
From the BoE:
After the system has been flooded with lots of debt with a nice housing boom, the bust gets everyone paying down debt and not borrowing.
This makes the money supply contract making it harder to pay down the debt.
When the repayments are larger than the new debt being taken on, the money supply starts contracting.
The Government needs to step in as the borrower of last resort to keep the money supply stable, otherwise you head into a deflationary spiral.
Central Banks using monetary policy to control economies is just a bad idea.
Compared to the FED and ECB, the BoE is doing well but that isn’t saying
Many years ago when Alan Greenspan first proposed using monetary policy to control economies, the critics said this was far too broad a brush.
After the dot.com crash Alan Greenspan loosened monetary policy to get the economy going again. The broad brush effect stoked a housing boom.
When he tightened interest rates, to cool down the economy, the broad brush effect burst the housing bubble. The teaser rate mortgages unfortunately introduced enough of a delay so that cause and effect were too far apart to see the consequences of interest rate rises as they were occurring. The end result 2008.
With the Euro-zone, the Germans were the first ones to go bubble crazy over the dot.com boom and their version of the NASDAQ collapsed by 97% in the bust.
To help Germany, the ECB lowered interest rates and blew bubbles in the Club-Med nations that burst when the Euro-zone crisis hit.
The low interest rates didn’t actually encourage the German’s to borrow as they had just had their fingers burnt with the dot.com bust and they were busy repairing their balance sheets.
The recessionary atmosphere in Germany allowed them to press ahead with labour reform.
The Club-Med nations and Ireland couldn’t resist the low interest rates and started borrowing heavily. This new debt created new money which increased the money supply.
With more money around wages rose and labour quietly became more uncompetitive, un-noticed in the boom of low interest rates, mass borrowing and mass money creation.
Richard Koo goes into the details:
(same link – understand it and you will understand a lot, but you really need to understand money first, BoE link above)
From 55 mins. – Explanation of ECB action to help Germany
The broad brush of monetary policy being applied to the divergent economies of Euro-zone was a disaster waiting to happen. It was never going to work and its problems have already manifested themselves in the housing bubbles of Greece, Spain, Holland and Ireland when trying to help Germany with low interest rates.
Holland desperately tries to keep its housing bubble inflated and avoid the fate of Ireland, Spain and Greece.
The broad brush of monetary policy also divided the Euro-zone’s labour market, making German labour more competitive and Club-Med nations labour less competitive.
The Euro-zone is suffering from problems caused by the dot.com crash and broad brush Central Bank monetary policy, these problems only manifested themselves much later after the next big crash in 2008.
Trying to solve these problems now, 16 years later, is proving very difficult indeed, especially using the broad brush of monetary policy that failed so miserably all those years ago.
The targeted solutions that were used in the past seem far more sensible than the broad brush of monetary policy and the evidence is becoming over-whelming for even the most hardened ideologue.
“Euro-zone is suffering from problems caused by the dot.com crash and broad brush Central Bank monetary policy, these problems only manifested themselves much later after the next big crash in 2008.”
In your desire to HIT on Germany and Central bank’s you completely miss the elephant in the room.”
greece lied to get into the Euro, the hidden greek debts and the unstable greek banking system.
Turned what should have been an American recession started 08, into a global recession/depression as the greek fraud came out.
The greek fraud Haircuts, to private bond holders and the Eu taxpayer funded bailouts to greece.
Simply moved the problem on. Cyprus was tipped into the fire and forced to bail in its bank’s and liquidate 1 or more of them, due to its exposure to greece.
Portugal,Spain, And Italy all nations with unstable Banking systems with huge hidden NPL’S. Had their bank’s undermined and in some cases destroyed due to their exposure to the greek fraud.
The bank’s of those three nations, have still not recovered, from the losses incurred due to the greek fraud’s. Let alone repaired the instability increases greece caused in their system’s
With out including all these facts in your presentation against central bank’s and Germany. Your 1997 root position, is deeply flawed.
Even Yellen has concluded we can not QE and ZIRP/NIRP our way out of this Euro-land and china in particular, refuse to listen.
The 08 global financial crisis may never have snowballed as it did, if not for the greek fraud’s.
And yes the 2000 minor recession was actually part of the 1997 event which we are still in, as the losses and NPL’s from 1997. have simply been sloshing around and growing since 1997.
Since the 97 event, the putrid mess, has simply been rolled, and moved, and rolled, and moved. As banks and nation’s sough to avoid liquidation the debtors, and absorbing the losses.
Every time it is rolled it grow’s, then the mess caused by greece was added to the 97 rolling putrid pile.
The only way to deal with this mess, is a controlled systematic liquidation of the debtors.
china and club med, dont want to do that, as they see the “wealth effect” they have created, based in fraud, and financial engineering, evaporating.
Laying the blame for this interconnected Global mess we now have. Just on Greenspan, the fed or Germany, or a combination of just them, is pathetic.
Hank Paulson stole the 750 billion tarp which was going to be off balance sheet and gave it to the banks ON BALANCE. (And on t.v.!)
The Fed has been stealing production from the distant future to make paper to monetize the theft?
Banks get a quarter point of carry and time to enjoy porn on high-speed internet connections credit to credit!
We get hoarders lament?
The debt is bought back by the citizens and not payed off!
We live in spite of the fed balance sheet and hope they find a way to reduce the debt since we retire on budget?
The fed must design a way to finance the debt back into the system without draining the system of capital?
The fed needs to factor in ways to create a hotter economy and systems so the productive third can carry the remaining two thirds and their deficit spending needs?
“The fed must design a way to finance the debt back into the system without draining the system of capital?
The fed needs to factor in ways to create a hotter economy and systems so the productive third can carry the remaining two thirds and their deficit spending needs?”
IT WAS O BUMMERS JOB TO DO THIS.
HE HAS NOT DONE IT.
YOU ARE BEATING THE FED.
AS THEY HAVE NOT DONE O BUMMERS JOB FOR HIM.
The fed has been saying. For years, the issues in the economy.
Can not be resolved by monetary policy alone. O BUMMER refuses to listen.
Norm Chomsky’s “Requiem for the American Dream”
Get it and watch it several times so you don’t forget it.
Nothing happen by accident.
Once the buzzword became shareholders value one sheep was following the other and laying off personnel and buying back shares. Cutting costs for a new CEO means throwing out workers. The new corporates are valued at ludicrous prices, shwoing big turnover but with only a meaningless percentage of the personnel a roper, manufacturing company would employ. And that is where middle classes went, out in the streets for the sake of some VC’s and initiators of first day. Nothing aganst wealthy people, capitalism as such, but we are losing it and must get used to the fact that growth will never be larger than2-3% anymore, if at all.
Auto loans were the helicopter money. The Fed printed a tidal wave of money so everybody is flush. The system worked again. We get a nice theater of the absurd presidential campaign and everything goes on as before. Hope you enjoyed the puppet show. Once the auto dose wears off and the rent bubble begins to creak it will be equity buying time at the Fed. This should further enrich the wealthy. The next Clinton can’t help but propose major tax increases but those will fail in the House assuming the gerrymandering holds up. So that postpones politics until 2018 by which time the mental health professionals may have passed out enough drugs to keep the plebes quiescent.
What action should you take? Buy stocks! There is no alternative.
I just saw the GDP number for Q2, 2.9. While I expected it to be higher due to the Louisiana and North Carolina floods and subsequent recovery efforts, it still seems to be a little too high. The Louisiana flood affected 100K homes and all the stuff that goes with them, that’s a lot of refrigerators, cars, and such. While the FEMA grant money in Louisiana is only averaging $8K, a bit low I think, at least the money is going back into the economy.
“Why is this economy not yet in an official recession?”
So long as the government can avoid admitting the economy is in recession, it can avoid economic and regulatory reforms that might reduce the corporate plunder. So long as the charades can be maintained the economy will always be in a phony ‘recovery’.
So long as banks can avoid writing down their bad loans they can still socialize their losses with NIRP/ZIRP policies, QE, bailouts, bailins, bank reorganizations, and sweetheart government loan deals, completing the current phase of upwards wealth consolidation. They have already privatised the profits and are already well into the next cycle of bubble, crash, and confiscation.
Planetary plunder through financialization, extraction, militarism, compelled immigration, indoctrination, repression, denial, and concealment is the only real global industry, established and entrenched. Permanent corporate totalitarianism is a fact. All that remains is to dispense with the pretences otherwise when the collapse finally comes, and TPTB are in no hurry to do so.
Please, the muppets are doing their part too by not questioning the authority at every turn.
You know who TPTB translates to: ALL OF US.
The Trilateral Commission decided after 1968 that the Muppets got too smart, cuz they got too much edge’-u-macatin’.
We can’t have a real revolution against the war machine. MLK, Malcolm X and RFK all ended up dead because they were gonna be the head of a populist vanguard against the war machine.
That was a time of too many folks at (free) State schools figuring out the REAL history of the United States and its rapine empire and how much money and power the Rothschilds, Rockefellers and their toadies made off these gambits, these bankster wars where both sides were bankrolled by the same stateless actors.
That’s why education suddenly became both expensive and useless at the same time.
We went from educating citizens to making consumers, a whole bunch of little prima donna Kardashian wannabes.
Our World teeters on the edge of WWIII over the hot proxy war in Syria and our media rattles swords, talking about Russian belligerence…. but the images we actually see are not of a battlefield..
It is of a Paris hotel room and a jewelry heist of our Greatest American Consumer.
Set it to rhyme.