Paul Krugman says, We’ll be Repeating the Great Mistake of 1937

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman

That 1937 Feeling

Published: January 3, 2010

Here’s what’s coming in economic news:  The next employment report could show the economy adding jobs for the first time in two years. The next G.D.P. report is likely to show solid growth in late 2009. There will be lots of bullish commentary — and the calls we’re already hearing for an end to stimulus, for reversing the steps the government and the Federal Reserve took to prop up the economy, will grow even louder.

But if those calls are heeded, we’ll be repeating the great mistake of 1937, when the Fed and the Roosevelt administration decided that the Great Depression was over, that it was time for the economy to throw away its crutches. Spending was cut back, monetary policy was tightened — and the economy promptly plunged back into the depths.

This shouldn’t be happening. Both Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, and Christina Romer, who heads President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, are scholars of the Great Depression. Ms. Romer has warned explicitly against re-enacting the events of 1937. But those who remember the past sometimes repeat it anyway.

As you read the economic news, it will be important to remember, first of all, that blips — occasional good numbers, signifying nothing — are common even when the economy is, in fact, mired in a prolonged slump. In early 2002, for example, initial reports showed the economy growing at a 5.8 percent annual rate. But the unemployment rate kept rising for another year.

And in early 1996 preliminary reports showed the Japanese economy growing at an annual rate of more than 12 percent, leading to triumphant proclamations that “the economy has finally entered a phase of self-propelled recovery.” In fact, Japan was only halfway through its lost decade.

Such blips are often, in part, statistical illusions. But even more important, they’re usually caused by an “inventory bounce.” When the economy slumps, companies typically find themselves with large stocks of unsold goods. To work off their excess inventories, they slash production; once the excess has been disposed of, they raise production again, which shows up as a burst of growth in G.D.P. Unfortunately, growth caused by an inventory bounce is a one-shot affair unless underlying sources of demand, such as consumer spending and long-term investment, pick up.

Which brings us to the still grim fundamentals of the economic situation.

During the good years of the last decade, such as they were, growth was driven by a housing boom and a consumer spending surge. Neither is coming back. There can’t be a new housing boom while the nation is still strewn with vacant houses and apartments left behind by the previous boom, and consumers — who are $11 trillion poorer than they were before the housing bust — are in no position to return to the buy-now-save-never habits of yore.

What’s left? A boom in business investment would be really helpful right now. But it’s hard to see where such a boom would come from: industry is awash in excess capacity, and commercial rents are plunging in the face of a huge oversupply of office space.

Can exports come to the rescue? For a while, a falling U.S. trade deficit helped cushion the economic slump. But the deficit is widening again, in part because China and other surplus countries are refusing to let their currencies adjust.

So the odds are that any good economic news you hear in the near future will be a blip, not an indication that we’re on our way to sustained recovery. But will policy makers misinterpret the news and repeat the mistakes of 1937? Actually, they already are.

The Obama fiscal stimulus plan is expected to have its peak effect on G.D.P. and jobs around the middle of this year, then start fading out. That’s far too early: why withdraw support in the face of continuing mass unemployment? Congress should have enacted a second round of stimulus months ago, when it became clear that the slump was going to be deeper and longer than originally expected. But nothing was done — and the illusory good numbers we’re about to see will probably head off any further possibility of action.

Meanwhile, all the talk at the Fed is about the need for an “exit strategy” from its efforts to support the economy. One of those efforts, purchases of long-term U.S. government debt, has already come to an end. It’s widely expected that another, purchases of mortgage-backed securities, will end in a few months. This amounts to a monetary tightening, even if the Fed doesn’t raise interest rates directly — and there’s a lot of pressure on Mr. Bernanke to do that too.

Will the Fed realize, before it’s too late, that the job of fighting the slump isn’t finished? Will Congress do the same? If they don’t, 2010 will be a year that began in false economic hope and ended in grief.

Jim Rogers Says, Gold Will Hit $2,000 and USA Will Lose Status As The World’s Reserve Currency

Good Time To Buy Gold

Good Time To Buy Gold

Famed investor Jim Rogers is “quite sure gold will go over $2000 per ounce during this bull market.”Rogers’ confidence gold will continue to rally stems from a view the U.S. dollar is on its way to losing status as the world’s reserve currency.”Is it going to happen? Yes,” Rogers says. “I don’t like saying it [and] I’m extremely worried about it but we have to deal with the facts. America is not getting better [and] the dollar is going to be replaced just like pound sterling [was].”Rogers didn’t offer a timetable, and it’s likely gold would exceed $2000 per ounce if the dollar were to lose its reserve status.Still, “I wouldn’t buy gold today,” Rogers says. “I think I’ll make more money in other commodities, which are cheaper,” as discussed in more detail here.Among many others, Rogers is “worried about the fact the U.S. government is printing huge amounts, spending gigantic amounts of money it doesn’t have,” the investor and author says. “People are very worried [and] skeptical about paper money [and] looking for places to protect themselves. The best way is to buy real assets. [That] has always protected one during currency turmoil, and it will again.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Jim Rogers Says, Gold Will Hit $2,000…“, posted with vodpod

The Economy Is Dying – It Will Be a Bloodbath; Says, Christopher Whalen

Stocks rallied to start the week thanks to a better-than-expected ISM services sector report and a Goldman Sachs upgrade of big banks, including Wells Fargo, Comerica and Capital One.But all is not right in either the economy or the banking sector, according to Christopher Whalen, managing director at Institutional Risk Analytics. In fact, Whalen says most observers are drawing the wrong economic conclusions from the stock market’s robust rally.”Why is liquidity going into the financial sector? It’s because the real economy is dying [and] everyone is fleeing into the stocks and bonds because they’re liquid at the moment,” Whalen says. “That’s not a good sign.”The banking sector’s assets shrunk by about $300 billion per quarter in the first half of 2009, a sign of banks hoarding cash in anticipation of additional future losses, according to Whalen. “The real economy is shrinking because of a lack of credit.”The shrinkage will continue into 2010, Whalen predicts, suggesting the banking sector hasn’t yet seen the peak in loan losses. Institutional Risk Analytics forecasts the FDIC will ultimately need $300 billion to $400 billion to recoup losses to its bank insurance fund. (In other words, the $45 billion the FDIC sought to raise last week by asking banks to prepay fees is just a drop in the bucket.)”Investors should think about this because the fourth quarter in the banking industry is going to be a bloodbath,” says Whalen, who believes smaller and regional banks like Hudson City Bancorp may come into favor vs. larger peers, which have dramatically outperformed since the March lows.”When you see the markets rallying when the real economy is shrinking that tells you this [recovery] is not going to be very enduring,” Whalen says.In this regard, Whalen finds himself in philosophical agreement with Nouriel Roubini, George Soros and Meredith Whitney, among other “prophets of the apocalypse” who’ve once again been raising red flags in recent days.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

“Astounded” by Goldman’s Upgrade Banks “Heading Into the Storm” Whalen Says: Tech Ticker, Yahoo! Finance

Goldman Sachs making headlines again. Today, it’s on two accounts.First, Bloomberg is reporting Goldman could earn about $1 billion should the troubled lender CIT Group, enter bankruptcy or otherwise end a $3 billion financing agreement. I’m sure it’s adding fuel to the fire for the “Government Sachs” conspiracy theorists, who probably see it as a repeat of what happened with the AIG bailout.For those that don’t remember, Goldman received $12.9 billion from AIG after the government rescued the world’s largest insurer. That raised suspicions of conflicts of interest and unfair treatment, since then Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson also happened to be a former CEO at Goldman.Chris Whalen of Institutional Risk Analytics is a Goldman conspiracy sympathizer and someone who “doesn’t like their politics.” But, in this case, he doesn’t necessarily think anything is askew. “Like any distressed lender they have a right to their payment. They took the risk,” he admits.What strikes Whalen as more curious is Goldman’s call on the big banks. Citing a positive outlook on earnings, Goldman analysts raised the outlook on banks from neutral to “attractive” this morning. They also upgraded Wells Fargo to “buy” from “neutral”, Comerica to “neutral” from “sell”, and added Capital One to their “conviction buy” list.Whalen is “astounded” Goldman would make such a move “when the banking industry is heading into the storm.” Contrary to the Goldman call, Whalen says the earnings outlook will get worse over the next two quarters, culminating in a bloodbath in the fourth quarter. Part of the problem for Wells Fargo, according to Whalen, is the bank still has plenty of write-downs to come associated with the Wachovia merger, as detailed here. But Goldman employees and shareholders have no fear. Whalen is confident the firm will fare better than those it upgraded today, “because they’re not a bank.” Instead, he says, you must consider Goldman, “a trading operation with a private equity firm attached.”If there is a risk for Goldman, it is political. “They are so visible and so high profile,” Whalen speculates, “that if the economy doesn’t recover next year I think Goldman is in for some severe criticism.”And that, no doubt, would please the Goldman conspiracy crowd.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Buffett Says, We Are Doomed – We’re Going to Be Crushed Under A Mountain of Debt

A highly influential American has finally hit the panic button about the tremendous mountain of debt the country is piling up.Last year, Warren Buffett says, we were justified in using any means necessary to stave off another Great Depression. Now that the economy is beginning to recover, however, we need to curtail our out-of-control spending, or we’ll destroy the value of the dollar and many Americans’ life savings.Some not-so-fun facts from Buffett’s editorial today in the New York Times: * Congress is now spending 185% of what it takes in * Our deficit is a post WWII record of 13% of GDP * Our debt is growing by 1% a month * We are borrowing $1.8 trillion a year$1.8 trillion is a lot of money. Even if the Chinese lend us $400 billion a year and Americans save a remarkable $500 billion and lend it to the government, we’ll still need another $900 billion.So, where’s it going to come from? Most likely the printing press. And, ultimately, Buffett says, that will destroy the value of the dollar.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Robert Prechter Says Dollar’s Hit a “Major Bottom”

Forget all the talk about the dollar being in terminal decline. The recent rally in the greenback is for real, says Robert Prechter, president of Elliott Wave International. The man who correctly predicted the 1987 crash and last year’s peak in oil prices now says we’re “going to be up for a year or two in the dollar.”Reuters and other mainstream news outlets attribute the recent uptick in the dollar versus other major currencies to an improving economy signaled by Friday’s “stronger-than-expected U.S. jobs numbers.” Prechter, ever the contrarian, says the U.S. dollar has put in a major bottom but not for the reasons everyone else is pointing to.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Slumping Treasury bond prices send stocks lower – Yahoo! Finance

Slumping Treasury bond prices send stocks lower – Yahoo! Finance

Posted using ShareThis