The Daily Reckoning
Summer is over…and the rally may be over, too.
It’s back to business. No more long lunches. No more afternoons painting windows. No more soirees in the evening.
We return to our lonely métier – chronicling the decline and fall of the US economy…and the Anglo-American empire too….
Two bits of news signal the scale of this trend. But first, here’s one two-bit piece of news: the Dow lost 185 points yesterday. Could this mark the beginning of the end for the rally? Yes, it could. Should you be out of US stocks? Yes, you should.
But let’s turn back to our ‘decline and fall’ chronicles…
From Florida, comes news of the first drop in population in 60 years. “Unemployment is soaring,” reports USA Today. “Florida is second to California on foreclosures.”
Yes, dear reader, there is trouble in the sand states…
Florida lost a net 58,000 people this year…for the first time since the 1940s.
Why would that be? We’ll take a guess. Florida is a state where people go to retire. It is where people go when they stop producing and begin consuming. The major industry in the state was housing…building houses for consumers!
But now, the turn has come. Fewer people have money to consume. And those who do are keeping their money in their pockets. We even saw a report in The Wall Street Journal that people are cutting their own hair to save money. They’re also staying put, rather than moving to Florida. So Florida needs fewer new houses…and fewer people to build them.
Second, from national income statistics comes a report that the typical US household has less discretionary spending than at any time in the last 50 years. Why? Americans have no money to spend because they already spent it! Now they’re paying the price. And it will take years – maybe 10 years, maybe longer – before they’ve paid down their debts to more comfortable levels. In the meantime, they are poorer than they’ve been since the Eisenhower years.
Keeping it simple: Our view is that there is a major transition underway. There will be no genuine recovery, not now…not never. That is not to say the world economy is doomed to perpetual darkness and misery. Not at all. What it’s doomed to is a long period of adjustment…with high unemployment, on-again, off-again recession, and desperate efforts by the feds to return to the good old days of the bubble years.
But there’s no going back. It was as if the economy was playing a game of Russian roulette…and then the pistol went off – the debt bubble blew up. Once the bullet left the chamber, the game was over. Recovery? Forget about it. The old economy isn’t going to bounce back; it’s dead.
Still, just because a thing is hopeless doesn’t make it unpopular. The feds are fighting the correction every step of the way. They’re propping up brain-dead companies…and keeping zombie banks going by feeding them the blood of taxpayers. It’s ghoulish…it’s a very scary movie!
Unfortunately, the ghouls vote! And everywhere the feds look there’s a campaign contributor or a lobbyist or a voter…and they all want the A-positive blood of taxpayers. They look to the feds for a transfusion in order to keep living in the style to which they’ve become accustomed…
Just what you’d expect, in other words. And with so much debt in the system, the feds are desperate to raise inflation levels. They must increase the CPI to persuade consumers to spend money rather than save it. Otherwise, the nation risks falling into a deflation trap – the very thing Ben Bernanke has pledged to avoid. So they’ll continue going down that road – towards inflation – until they finally get there. And they’ll keep pressing harder and harder on the monetary accelerator until they finally run into a tree. Again, just what you’d expect.
So, where’s the surprise? We’re on the road to destruction; that’s clear. But it may be a much longer road than most people expect.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in London’s Telegraph:
“‘The current financial crisis is unlike any others,’ says the Bank for International Settlements. Lasting damage has been done. The ‘cumulative output loss’ is likely to reach 20pc of GDP in the major economies.
“The message is the same at the International Monetary Fund. ‘The world is not in a run of the mill recession. The crisis has left deep scars. In advanced countries, the financial systems are partly dysfunctional,’ said Olivier Blanchard, the Fund’s chief economist.
“It has certainly alarmed US retail tycoon Howard Davidowitz. ‘As a country we are out of control, we’re in a death spiral,’ he said.
“Jeff Wenniger from Harris Private Bank says an army of baby-boomers have seen their old age plans shattered by the housing bust. Their nightmare is here. They will have to spend less, and save more. ‘Generational destruction of a society’s balance sheet will not rectify itself in a matter of months.’
“‘How about a quarter century?’”
The Daily Reckoning
The Daily Reckoning
Trouble in the Sand States was originally published in the Daily Reckoning on September 2, 2009