U.S. GDP – 1980s Redux?

The Great Recession is now in our rear-view mirrors and with GDP growth of 5.7 in the fourth quarter, the recovery looks well underway. However, the surge in growth is unlike anything we have seen in a while. The recessions of the early 2000’s and 1990’s saw inconsistent growth after the recession ended. After the 2001 recession, growth peaked at 3.5% before falling back to 0.1% by 2002. The early 90’s recovery saw growth reach 4.5% before declining to a tepid 0.7% a year later.

However the 1980s recession may once again be our best guide for how the current recession may fare.

The recession ended in 1982 and by 1983, the U.S. economy was growing at extremely healthy rates. Between Q1 of 1983 and Q2 of 1984, average GDP growth was more than 7 percent. This is not to say the U.S. economy will replicate this pace of growth in the quarters ahead, but we have previously seen the rubber-band effect after deep recessions and there is no reason why it couldn’t happen again.

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US Dollar Sells Off on Concerns About NFP and GDP

Concerns about the US economy are growing as the Dow Jones Industrial Average erases all of its year to date gains, taking the US dollar down with it. The rally that we have seen in the first few days of trading will be difficult to sustain with all of the weak economic data that we expect in this month. Although the US government has thrown a lot of monetary and fiscal stimulus at the US economy, we may not see the fruits of their labor until the second quarter at the earliest. There is a major risk of a sharp drop in this month’s non-farm payrolls, retail sales and fourth quarter GDP reports and only after we have seen the last of depression like numbers can we begin to see a meaningful recovery in the US dollar.

ADP Signals Big Trouble for NFP

This is a big week in the currency market with non-farm payrolls due for release on Friday. The leading indicators for the pivotal labor market report are coming in and the latest report suggests that in the last 2 months of the year, more than 1 million Americans may have lost their jobs. According to the ADP private sector employment report, 693k jobs were lost in the private sector last month. This was much weaker than the market’s -493k forecast and suggests that non-farm payrolls could have dropped by more than 600k in the month of December. Layoffs also rose 274.5 percent according to the Challenger report with the biggest declines seen in the financial sector. Unfortunately big job losses will probably continue with Alcoa and Intel announcing more layoffs. The only silver lining is the rebound in the employment component of the service sector ISM report, which tends to have a very strong correlation with the non-farm payrolls report. With that in mind, we believe that job losses last month will be closer to 500k than 700k. Either way, both numbers spell big trouble for the US labor market. Q4 will be one of the worst quarters for non-farm payrolls that this generation has ever seen which is why the US dollar is weak and may remain weak going into the NFP report.

Forecasts for GDP, Unemployment and Deficit
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Stocks Rally and Currencies Recover: Is this the Bottom?

The case for a bounce in equities this week was strong following the Lehman CDS Auction and the possibility of new measures from the G7 and G20 nations in Washington this weekend. New guarantees and a host of other announcements have helped to stabilize the financial markets and ease the credit crisis, but is this enough or are we simply seeing a light volume Columbus Day rally in US equities?

Banks and money markets are closed today, which means that we have yet to see the full reaction to this weekend’s announcements, but there is a good chance that this is a near term bottom that could lead to a move back above 9500 in the Dow as investors come in to scoop up stocks at fire sale prices.

Many of the liquidity problems in the financial markets have been addressed by the unified response from the G7 nations. The timing is also right because equities and carry trades have become so oversold leading investors to look for a reason to buy. Sentiment is extremely important these days and we have seen market sentiment shift from skepticism to hope, which should lead to a reversal in the strength in the US dollar and Japanese Yen. From the unlimited dollar funding to interbank loan guarantees, the efforts of nations around the world may be finally working.

In order for this to be the long term bottom in equities, two important hurdles need to be overcome – the Oct 21 settlement of Lehman’s Credit Default Swaps and the Nov 7 settlement of WaMu’s CDS. As counterparty A forks up payment to counterparty B for the protection of a Lehman default, bankruptcies is a strong possibility as those who fall into the counterparty A group fail to come up with the money. If there are no major bankruptcies that forces the US government to come up with another $100B to recapitalize an ailing financial institution, then the worst may be over (Here a great article on Who’s on the hook for the Lehman CDS mess).

Eventually everyone does the right thing and this is the step in the right direction for all of the major world economies. For the currency market, this means a correction in the US dollar and the Japanese Yen, but a recovery for carry trades and the Euro.

Now let’s get a little bit more specific on who announced what this weekend:
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In the Financial Papers: Today’s Top Forex News 05.15.08

kathysmallHere is the “In the Financial Papers Radio Broadcast” (Length: 5:43minutes). The player should load automatically. Please let me know if you like it. Contact Kathy

In the Financial Papers:

 

Podcast Covers:
New Zealand Dollar, One of the Weakest Pairs in the FX Market
Eurozone GDP Numbers
Factories Won’t Save the Day
Manufacturing in NY Unexpectedly Contracts
Industrial Production Weakens
US Consumer Prices
High Soybean Prices Hurt Japanese Tofu Makers
Commodity Prices Retreating, Rice Falls to Daily Limit AGAIN
Early Markdowns Mean Springtime for Shoppers
Iceland Debates Switching to Euro.
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