Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Recession's Over!!!

Or at least, so says the L.A. Times:
Reporting from Washington - The U.S. economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.5% in the third quarter, unofficially marking the end of the worst recession since World War II.

The growth reported today by the Commerce Department for the three months that ended Sept. 30 snapped four straight quarters of economic contraction and was driven largely by a rebound in consumer spending supported by the federal stimulus package and improved business spending that included a revival of home building.

The increase in the gross domestic product, the total value of goods and services produced in the country, is the evidence most economists have said is needed to declare victory against the recession. ...

Article here. Thank goodness! And here I thought we needed to worry. But no, according to one of the administration's eminent propaganda outlets, happy days are here (or soon to be here) again. Time to break out the champagne and the credit cards, and spend, spend, spend!

Back in the reality-based universe, however, The Market Ticker's Karl Denninger breaks down the numbers [emphasis in original below]:
... That's worse. A lot worse. Disposable personal income decreased in nominal terms q/o/q by 5.9% while in real terms (inflation adjusted) it decreased q/o/q by 7.4%! That is an enormous swing in purchasing power and not in the right direction!
Personal outlays increased $148.2 billion (5.8 percent) in the third quarter, compared with an increase of $8.2 billion (0.3 percent) in the second. Personal saving -- disposable personal income less personal outlays -- was $364.6 billion in the third quarter, compared with $533.1 billion in the second.

The personal saving rate -- saving as a percentage of disposable personal income -- was 3.3 percent in the third quarter, compared with 4.9 percent in the second.

So into decreasing personal income and disposable personal income people tried to spend anyway. Best guess: most of this was "cash for clunkers", which is the worst sort of "spending" - it is the taking on of more debt by replacing a paid-off car with one that now comes with a shiny (and nasty) payment book. The Trade: Go long auto repo outfits (aside: as far as I know there are no publicly-traded repo companies.)

Nothing in here I like; to the contrary, this report sucks and on a drill-down appears to be full of outright lies.

Looking inside the data, the "big change" in private domestic investment is all residential fixed - up 23.4%. I don't believe it. I've been scouring the homebuilder earnings releases and data, and I don't see the numbers that support this. An improvement over the ditch-diving of the last many quarters, yes - but a 23.4% increase, a swing of fifty percent from Q2-Q3? Oh hell no. Where is it? It's not in Home Depot's or Lowe's quarterly results, it's not in the homebuilders, and I can't find it in the suppliers (lumber companies, etc) either. This sort of move would result in monstrous top-line revenue increases reported by firms in this sector and that simply has not happened.

Nor do the export and import numbers look right. Port of Long Beach and LA anyone? Those numbers also don't add up - swings of 20-25% in one quarter? Not reflected in container volumes and freight loadings. Yet it has to be - how do you get something in or out of here without it going through a port? ...

And the mainstream media wonders why people aren't buying their stories anymore, either figuratively, or literally.

No comments: