Saturday, November 15, 2008


We didn’t have many reports this week, but three key reports were the Jobless Claims, Retail Sales, and the University of Michigan Consumer Confidence reports. The markets are down between 6-8% this week, depending on which index you use, and they fully reflect the grim confirmation of the state of our economy. I don’t really have to say anything because you already know what kind of situation we’re in. What is frightening is that we can throw as much money at this problem as we want, BUT:

• People are losing jobs, hundreds of thousands of them. How are they going to pay for their house, their car, student loans, credit cards, day-to-day expenses?
• A lack of disposable income fuels the lack of consumer spending. The end result that businesses cannot make money and will cut further jobs.
• This results in a significant decrease in tax revenue for the Federal, state and local governments, and they too will (are) cutting jobs and public spending on programs and services.
• The end result is that everyone has to cut down on everything, and it is not because of choice. It is forced because it is a vicious cycle that feeds upon itself. Consumers drive this economy (or kill it).
• Rinse and repeat, because we just started.

This simple explanation gives the clearest picture as to what is happening right now. This will go on for many, many, many months. There is a lot of talk on CNBC about “preventing” a recession. I’m not a Ph.D economist, but you don’t have to be smart to say that 1) this cannot be prevented: the wheels are already in motion and the road down is steep, and 2) recessions are a normal and necessary part of the business cycle. Why does everyone keep forgetting that? We must clear out the excess created during the expansion. This one will just be much, much more painful than the rest. The best policy is for people to stop “hoping and praying”, which is only reserved for religion, and to financially and mentally prepare themselves for the worst possible outcome, and that is currently TBD.

Jobless Claims

The consensus was 482K claims for the week of 11/8 with a consensus range of 475K to 500K. We blew that out of the water and hit 516K. The previous reading was 481K. Take a look at the chart as the labor market’s contractions continue to become parabolic in the not-so-good direction:

Retail Sales

We had a lot of retailers that reported earnings this week, so when Friday rolled around, it was nothing surprising, except for the fact that this decline is the worst decline on record since this economic series started in 1992. Retail sales dropped -2.8% while the consensus was -1.9% with a range of -3.2% to -0.6%. The previous reading was -1.2%, so we fell off a cliff and the chart shows it (reminds you of the Oct crash, doesn’t it?):

University of Michigan Consumer Confidence

Confidence edged up slightly, but this recent reading is worthless. It came in at 57.9 while the consensus was 56 with a range of 48.6 to 65. The previous reading was 57.5. We all know the economy is going to get worse, so don’t put much weight on this reading. They must have surveyed billionaires. We are still near multi-year lows and I have a feeling that we’ll hit 50 soon.

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