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Four Reasons the Next Recession Will Be Worse Than the Last One

With the stock market at all-time highs and seemingly endless “free liquidity” being provided by the Fed, the last thing most people can envision right…

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This article was originally published by Mises Institute

With the stock market at all-time highs and seemingly endless “free liquidity” being provided by the Fed, the last thing most people can envision right now is a major recession—particularly one that will be the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s!

But the facts we will detail in this article show that this is entirely possible. This is an extraordinary statement, but we are living in extraordinary times!

Here are the four key reasons to believe the next recession could be worse than the Great Recession of 2008–09—which would make it the worst since the 1930s.

Reason No. 1: Extremely High Asset Valuations

Informed investors know that we are currently in an “everything bubble” driven by massive and persistent central bank money creation.

For example, Warren Buffett’s favorite valuation measure—and the one that best predicts future long-term stock market returns—is the stock market capitalization–to–GDP ratio, which is shown below. Based on this measure, stocks are trading 30 percent higher than the prior all-time high during the tech bubble peak of 2000! Stocks would have to fall over 60 percent for this ratio to return to the levels it reached at the stock market bottom in March 2009.

Source: FRED, with annotations by BullAndBearProfits.com.

Real estate is also expensive. As shown in the chart below of the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index, home prices are currently 27 percent higher than they were at the housing bubble peak of 2006!

City Home Price Index
Source: FRED, with annotations by BullAndBearProfits.com.

Reason No. 2: Weak Economic Fundamentals

The US economy is not as strong as it used to be. That is certainly true in the wake of the covid pandemic, but it has also been true for the past two decades. All of the taxes, regulations, and other government interventions in the economy in recent decades have created a weaker and more fragile economy that will make the next recession even worse.

The chart below of industrial production shows it is only 8 percent higher than at the 2000 peak and 1 percent lower than at the 2007 peak. It has nearly flatlined over the past two decades. That is much weaker than the 3.9 percent annual growth in industrial production from 1920 to 2000.

Industrial Production Index
Source: FRED, with annotations by BullAndBearProfits.com.

Total nonfarm employment, shown below, grew at a 2.5 percent annual rate from 1940 to 2000. Similar to industrial production, nonfarm employment has nearly flatlined over the past two decades. It has increased only 10 percent since the 2000 peak and only 6 percent since the 2007 peak. Sadly, it is still nearly 4 percent below the February 2020 peak.

Nonfarm Employment
Source: FRED, with annotations by BullAndBearProfits.com.

Reason No. 3: Excessive Debt Levels

The chart below shows the US total debt–to–GDP ratio is near recent all-time highs at 3.8 (or 380 percent), even higher than the high levels preceding the Great Recession. Global debt to GDP is also at record-high levels of over 300 percent, as is US federal debt to GDP, at 125 percent.

debt to GDP
Source: FRED, with annotations by BullAndBearProfits.com.

Excessive debt has been the problem with every financial crisis in history due to prior money creation out of thin air, so the next one promises to be one for the history books, given these unprecedented high debt levels. Debt liquidation and defaults will lead to deflation, as we saw in the Great Recession and even more so in the Great Depression.

Reason No. 4: Limited Policy Options

The primary case for economic growth over the past twelve years since the Great Recession ended has been “free liquidity” provided in seemingly endless amounts by the Federal Reserve. It is almost as though money really did grow on trees!

But money created out of thin air does not create new goods and services that improve living standards. If it did, a place like Zimbabwe would be the wealthiest country in the world. However, newly created money can flow into financial assets, which helps explain why their valuation levels are so high.

The graph below shows “Austrian” money supply (AMS), the best measure of money supply that is consistent with this Austrian school of economics definition (although it no longer includes traveler’s checks, which have been discontinued in the Fed’s database due to limited use these days). AMS is up 40 percent since February 2020 and is up an astounding 225 percent since the Great Recession ended in June 2009!

Austrian money supply
Source: Chart courtesy of FRED, with annotations by BullAndBearProfits.com.

This is well above the money supply growth that drove the Roaring Twenties and ultimately led to the Great Depression of the 1930s, as detailed in economist Murray N. Rothbard’s definitive history of that period, America’s Great Depression. In this book, he explained the cause of the boom and bust business cycle:

The “boom-bust” cycle is generated by monetary intervention in the market, specifically bank credit expansion to business … [B]ank credit expansion sets into motion the business cycle in all its phases: the inflationary boom, marked by expansion of the money supply and by malinvestment; the crisis, which arrives when credit expansion ceases and malinvestments become evident; and the depression recovery, the necessary adjustment process by which the economy returns to the most efficient ways of satisfying consumer desires.

All this money creation has enabled the Fed to target the federal funds rate at only 0.1 percent, as shown below. While that is above the negative interest rates prevailing in some countries, it doesn’t leave much room for the Fed to cut rates to try to prevent a recession, particularly with inflation at over 5 percent now. And as the chart shows, the Fed cut rates throughout the prior three recessions and was not able to stop them, since the economy is bigger than the Fed. This leaves the economy very vulnerable to the next downturn, with potentially no “safety nets” to protect it.

federal funds rate
Source: Chart courtesy of FRED, with annotations by BullAndBearProfits.com.

Lastly, for the Keynesian economists who still believe the dogma that federal budget deficits can prevent a recession—despite no evidence or logical theory to support it—the current federal budget surplus/deficit–to–GDP ratio of –15 percent is the worst since World War II, as shown below. Given record-high government debt levels and deficits, how much more deficit spending will bond investors be willing to finance? And what good will it do, since deficits did not prevent the Great Recession?

federal budget surplus/deficit
Source: Chart courtesy of FRED, with annotations by BullAndBearProfits.com.

Conclusion

There is much more that can be said to prove our case, but hopefully the facts provided in this article are sufficient for people to understand the current risks in the economy. While the exact timing of the next recession is unknown, given the potential magnitude, now is the time for people to start preparing for it.

Economics

All Eyes On Inventory

You’ve heard of the virtuous circle in the economy. Risk taking leads to spending/investment/hiring, which then leads to more spending/investment/hiring….

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You’ve heard of the virtuous circle in the economy. Risk taking leads to spending/investment/hiring, which then leads to more spending/investment/hiring. Recovery, in other words.

In the old days of the 20th century, quite a lot of the circle was rounded out by the inventory cycle. Both recession and recovery would depend upon how much additional product floated up and down the supply chain. Deflation, too.

On the contraction side, demand might fall off a bit for whatever reason(s), retailers getting stuck with a small inventory overhang. If they think it more than temporary, or don’t have the internal cash to finance it, the retail level scales back pushing inventory to wholesalers who then cut orders from producers.

Serious enough, producers begin to cut back their own activities, maybe to the point of forgoing new hires, perhaps laying off some workers already employed. Whatever necessary to equalize reduced order flow with cost structure and input utility.

When those layoffs hit, almost certainly it cuts further into demand (unemployed workers are far more careful and constrained consumers), more inventory stuck at retailers and wholesalers, then even fewer orders for producers who must sharpen their payroll axe all over again. This vicious cycle is what used to make up the balance of any recession.

But what if inventory first accumulates for other reasons?

It may be a different look to the cycle, though not necessarily an entirely different outcome. Suppose retailers (outside of automobiles) grow concerned about supply availability or shipping times. They might naturally react by boosting their current order flow if only to increase their chances some product makes it through the clogged shipping channels.

As that increased order flow unrelated to demand continues to move back through the supply chain, it probably would only make the transportation issues that much worse. It’s already a mess, and because it’s already a mess the entire supply chain tries to stuff more goods through it rather than less, rather than giving the system some time and space to work out enough kinks.

This, of course, would probably convince retailers to do it all over again, ordering even more they don’t need now or in the near future, now more desperate to try and raise their chances of receiving anything. More trouble for the shippers and so on.

Having intentionally over-ordered, and then over-ordered again (and again?), this time what happens when the logistics get more sorted out and then deliveries rather than trickle through come pouring out? This is the cyclical question for early 2022, not the unemployment rate.

Some companies have said they are ready, and have confidently declared how they will be able to manage holding such excessive levels of product. Maybe they can. But what happens to orders down at the lower reaches? Having received all this extra inventory, retailers and wholesalers aren’t going to keep double and triple ordering.

Before even getting to demand considerations, the orders are going to drop and producers are going to become less busy. The inventory glut having been forwarded up to the retail level, maybe wholesale, it will have to be worked down over time.

This is where demand comes into it. If demand stays as robust as some might currently assume, it might not take that much time to normalize inventory, then get past the whole issue and imbalance with nothing much lost.

And if demand isn’t as good, then we’re right back into the 20th century again.

The way the supply bottlenecks of 2021 have worked out, there is going to be an inventory overhang at some point. When it does come about and how bad it will be, that’s really the demand question. There seems to be quite a bit of optimism about it, to the point of complacency while corporate CEO’s bark in the media instead about all the massive inflation they plan on throwing your way.

Inflation today (therefore not inflation) but potentially too many goods tomorrow. However the inventory cycle manifests, the one thing each would have in common is its trough – disinflationary at the least.



Manufacturing PMI’s, for what it’s worth, remain elevated as if the upward segment of that unusual cycle remains relatively intact (note: ISM for September won’t be released for another week). With ships still stacking up on the US West Coast, this makes sense. Regardless of current levels of demand, these supply problems would only feed the imbalance for another month.

IHS Markit’s manufacturing index retreated again for the flash September 2021 estimate, but it remains above 60 therefore still in the post-2008 stratosphere. At 60.5 in the latest update, it is down, though, for the second month in a row since hitting the high of 63.4 back in July. And the index was 62.6 back in May, meaning it’s been four months treading.

It is the services side which has materially declined, leading many to assume it must be due to delta COVID if goods flow is largely uninterrupted at the same time. Markit’s services PMI dropped to 54.4 in September from 55.1 in August, while its employment component fell back to just 50.

This meant the composite, accounting for both manufacturing and services, declined to a very similar 54.5. Using this measure as a guide for possible GDP in Q3, that’s working down to a very disappointing 3% or less which might otherwise raise suspicions when it comes to the sustainability of demand.


If this more serious setback really is pandemic-related, then thinking it a temporary one might keep up the order flow as well as the logistical nightmare. Then the artificial inventory cycle gets even more artificial.

It could very well be that manufacturing remains high because of inventory and not because current potential weakness is only about delta.

Should it turn out to be unrelated, or only somewhat attributable to renewed disease measures, then inventory stops being a pesky annoyance of shipping bottlenecks and potentially starts being more like its old self. While that wouldn’t necessarily mean recession in early 2022, even a substantial downturn (chances would have it globally synchronized) having yet fully recovered from the last two would be enough trouble.

 

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Economics

This Has To Be A Mistake

This Has To Be A Mistake

While we were digging through the data for today’s household net worth report we stumbled upon something that seem…

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This Has To Be A Mistake

While we were digging through the data for today's household net worth report we stumbled upon something that seem beyond ridiculous: the ratio of Household Net Worth to Disposable Net Income. At 786% in the latest quarter, the chart at first appears to be a mistake but we triple checked it, and... well, here it is.

The latest, all-time high print is an increase from 698% in Q1 and also represents the biggest quarterly increase in history!

This number is so ridiculous, it is almost 50% higher than the long-term average of 540%. More importantly, it means that the total net worth number we reported earlier today, which in Q2 hit a record high of $142 trillion, is massively inflated on the back of what is obviously the biggest asset bubble on record.

It also means that if one were to strip away the asset bubble, and net worth was purely a reasonable function of disposable income, then total net worth worth be haircut by 31%, or some $43 trillion, which incidentally, is equivalent to the net worth of the top 1% of US society...

... and which as we showed earlier today is a record 32% of total household net worth.

As an aside, the fact that the top 1% have gained $10 trillion in wealth since the covid pandemic outbreak, is probably just a coincidence, and yet...

As for the chart which clearly has to be a mistake, we are sad to report that it isn't, and as politicians of both the Democrat and Republican party pretend to fight for the common man, all they are doing is enabling and accelerating the greatest wealth transfer in the world but not for nothing: they too want to be in the top 1%.

Tyler Durden Thu, 09/23/2021 - 22:00
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Economics

“Culture As An Asset”

#CKStrong Stunning. Hedge funds hoovering up trading cards as an “alternative to equities” with the same passion Brooks Robinson hoovered up ground…

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#CKStrong

Stunning. Hedge funds hoovering up trading cards as an “alternative to equities” with the same passion Brooks Robinson hoovered up ground balls.

This is usually a sign of the endgame for markets, i.e,, the precursor to a bear market. Think the “Great Beanie Baby Bubble” of 1999.

In general, there are two types of assets,

  1. They can be rare—gold bars, diamonds, houses on Victoria Peak, bottles of 1982 Pétrus, Van Gogh paintings, stamps, beanie babies, or baseball cards or
  2. They can generate cash flows over time  – GaveKal

Creating An Illusion Of Scarcity

Scarcity relative to the money stock is what its all about now, folks. 

It probably won’t be long before the Fed has to bailout the baseball card market, no?

Full disclosure,  I do own a Mike Trout rookie card

Given the extreme valuations of all most all asset classes, coupled with the massive amount of money in the global financial system, markets are now really stretching, looking for, and actually attempting to create scarcity as a useful delusion to justify, rationalize, and drive speculation. 

Maybe I will start collecting poop as an “anthropological asset,” put it the blockchain and super charge the price ramp by snapping a few pictures of each sample, converting them to NFTs to load up to the internet.

Then again, maybe all this is signaling the start of a big, big inflation cycle and the markets are looking to get out of cash and protect their purchasing power.   But that’s too rational.  

Can you believe what markets have become, folks?   It is hard to see clearly when everybody is making money. 

 

 

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