Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Imaginary recovery.

Last time I was in Knoxville, I noticed that the planned mixed-use development that had stalled in the slump of '08 was still just a lonely clump of model condos in the middle of a maze of weed-lined streets to nowhere and culs-de-sac of nothing.

Driving out 38th Street to get to MCF&G the other day was bleak. The road is lined with shuttered big box stores, deserted strip malls, and boarded-up chain restaurants. A fun 21st Century travel game is trying to tell the Chili's from the TGI Friday's from the Applebee's by the architecture with all the corporate signage gone. (Carraba's are easy: They're the ones with weeds on the roof.)

Meanwhile, the TeeWee talking heads are cooing at the Dow passing 13,000 again. Investors, they say, are excited about yet another Greek bailout. Let me get this straight: Germany has taken out another cash advance on its maxed-out credit card and given it to its deadbeat cousin, Greece, who swears that this time they'll use the money to get a haircut and a job, instead of wasting it on hookers and blow again, and investors take this as a good sign?

Every time I hear the words "Leading economic indicators are..." come out of a newscaster's mouth these days, I expect them to be followed by "...from the planet Mars."

EDITED TO ADD: I'm far from the only one picking up this vibe...


Joseph said...

Ironically, I think the only segment of the economy that recovered is the gun industry.


bluesun said...

Pretty sure people would trust the media more if they just... shut up. Their obsession with hearing their own voices (or the ones in their heads) (or the ones from Washington) is kinda freaky.

ExurbanKevin said...

That post is better if you sing the title to the tune of an old Atlanta Rhythm Section disco hit.

Imaginary recovery
Never turns you down
When all the others turn you away
It's around

Boat Guy said...

Well if the economy's not totally recovered, we'll just take out another cash advance on OUR maxed-out credit card and THAT will fix it. Really.

jimbob86 said...

re: the bleak economic wastelands....

Well, they won't have to build any sets for the 3rd Atlas Shrugged movie ... there will be plenty of appropriately abandonded locations available.....

(sings) "Always look on the bright side of life...." (/sings)

Anonymous said...

I see your leading economic indicators and raise you "productivity".

If you have 33% of the employees you had in 2006 and they make 45% of the widgets you made in 2006, do you really want to brag about corporate productivity?


Kind of human

Brian N. said...

It's a misconception or deception with history to it...James Brown sang about it all the way back in 1965. One can look at those rosy aggregate macro numbers and shout recovery until blue in the face but to look at real people and places the recovery was a hard thing to see even then. Some beturtlenecked catamite-chaser from Maine or second-rate Princeton talking head will accuse the ordinary man of lacking depth of focus or breadth of vision, instead. From Mars, indeed...

Bubblehead Les. said...

Don't forget, the Krauts get to up their Credit Limit because they get to share the Debt with the IMF, which gets about 25% of its cash from the Ye Olde Friendly U.S. of A.

And we don't get one piece of Baklava or a shot of Ouzo out of the mess, either.

Your Federal Tax Dollars at Work.

dave said...

Peter has a couple of good articles up today about why it's all bogus:

Stock gains the result of currency manipulation

The Greek bailout...isn't

Angus McThag said...

Woo hoo! The DOW just made it to 6500 in pre-Obama money!

Or was I not supposed to notice that everything costs twice as much as it used to and all of those things are necessities?

Odd that all of those necessities are not included in the inflationary basket, isn't it?

Matt said...

If the unemployment numbers were calculated the same way they were during the Great Depression we'd be seeing numbers closer to 19% as opposed the the 8.9 that the administration is claiming. But of course, pointing that out to the "Ones who know" would bring a chorus of howls and derision. And let's face it, you sure don't see unemployment lines like you did in the past. As long as you have internet access and a bank account you never have to go to an unemployment office. Now I'm sure it was all done to make the process easier but I'm also sure that the gov't doesn't mind that a side effect is that it makes the problem a lot less visible to everyone else.

Anonymous said...

There's a lot of regional variation in the economy. In my area employers are complaining that they can't find enough skilled workers.

On another note....
"The road is lined with shuttered big box stores, deserted strip malls, and boarded-up chain restaurants."

Why is modern commercial architecture so godawful ugly? I can't see any of the stuff we build now being admired and preserved by our descendents.

Tam said...

Anon 12:03,

"There's a lot of regional variation in the economy. In my area employers are complaining that they can't find enough skilled workers."

Indiana's overall numbers, relative to the rest of the nation, are fairly good, one of the reasons that certain of the RNC are still humping our governor's leg in an attempt to get him back into the race should there be a brokered convention.

Certain segments of the economy are going begging for help, true, but the people unemployed by the collapse of other segments of the economy are of no use to them. I'm sure that here locally Lilly would like to hire biochemists and Rolls Royce would like machinists, but that doesn't do much to help all the unemployed Borders stock clerks and framing carpenters.

Garrett Lee said...

"Why is modern commercial architecture so godawful ugly? I can't see any of the stuff we build now being admired and preserved by our descendents."

Because architecture is no longer connected to the environment it is in - as witness the glass-and-aluminum buildings in the American Southwest.

montieth said...

Reading this, you make me think I need to stop investing in my 401K and start throwing the 14% of my income to buying shot gun shells, gasoline refining equipment and buff colored sports gear for my army of the apocalypse.

Lewis said...

I'm investing in colanders.

Steve said...

My wife and I did a local trade show last weekend and what I noticed was that there were some empty booths, both unsold and no-shows. Unsold booths and companies that paid $500 bucks for a booth but are no longer around or can't afford to show up does not indicate economic recovery to me.
There was also very little merchandise being given away. I usually come home from these events with a years supply of post it notes and scratch pads, plus fistfulls of pens, a few calculators, frisbees, water bottles etc. This year, one water bottle and a wisk. To me, that is not a sign of that local business is flourishing. And I live in an area with relatively low unemployment.
Obama might be able to show a recovery on paper but millions of people whose unemployment has run out or who are working harder for 75% of what they earned 4 years ago know better.

Pakkinpoppa said...

You need lots and lots of shotgun shells, just don't buy any (or trust!) paper hulls...


Plus, sports gear is pretty passe, why not merely invest in kevlar? It can always be dressed up.

Frank W. James said...

Tam: In Indiana the areas with the lowest unemployment are Marion county and points south. I hear some parts of southern Indiana are crying for people, but the same can't be said for NorthWest or North West Central. Up here the unemployment officially is over 11% and unofficially over 17%.

Ditch Manuels can go to Hell for my 10 cents worth and the Republican Party can go with him if they think he's an economic 'savior'...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Kristophr said...

Current Dow Jones Index, corrected for inflation:

Kristophr said...

Basically, the rate of return on the Dow Jones during the Obama debacle has been about 1.9% .

Almost as bad as the return on your Social Security "pension".

I've been keeping my money in Asian bond funds since just before the Dot Com bust, and have been doing quite well. Some of my relatives have had their money in Brazilian petrochemical companies since then, and are making money hand over fist.

Kristophr said...

Montieth: Check your 401k options. You should be able to get your money outside the US if you look.

If you get fired, roll your 401k into a gold bullion based IRA if you can't get a good foreign bond fund.

Cincinnatus said...

When you get some raw data that the government has not massaged in some fashion, it is quite bleak.

An example: monthly gasoline consumption is astonishingly low, and continues to drop.

staghounds said...

"Obama might be able to show a recovery on paper ..."

Problem solved!

global village idiot said...

I'm simply conscious of the fact that the numbers being thrown out by the mandarins on the Potomac would get anyone in private industry thrown in jail.

Architecture looks the way it looks for two reasons:
1) The gaudy stuff looks so horribly gaudy because architects are better at spending other peoples' money than a community organizer, and
2) The plain stuff looks so horribly plain because the architect ran into a client with a fixed budget.

S-W said...


Couple reasons why the Dow hit 13K.
I'm sure you know this but some may not.

First, the Dow didn't really go up, the value of the dollar went down. It now takes more dollars to buy a particular Share of the Dow.

Faith and trust of the US gov and quantities are what dictates a dollars worth. ect...

Gas doesn't go up, it just takes more inflated dollars to purchase it. All commodities work that way.

Second, almost 90% of the daily trading on Wall St. is HFT (High Frequency Trading). Their are almost no retail investors trading the market.

Investors KNOW now that the market is a fixed Casino game. They/we want nothing to do with it anymore. We've been fleeced royally 4 times. 2000, 2008, Flash Crash and the coup de gra, MF Global.

The PTB think if they run the markets high enough, greed will set in and the sheeple will roll in, only to be fleeced again. They're getting tired of trying to fleece each other which, doesn't work. It's all churn based on the stagnant volumes in the markets.

I won't even go into the declining velocity of money which, is at a historical all time low. (too much) lol

The ponzi will continue until it doesn't, then, brick by brick, heart to heart, can you come out and play with me, it all falls down, like a toy soldier. (I love that song in toy story but the name escapes me ATM. (Toy Soldier???)

I do luvs yer meanderings.


Anonymous said...

Well, we should be glad that velocity is low. If it weren't, it would indicate that people don't trust the value of their money, and real inflation would be much much higher. (It doesn't matter if you have twice as much money, or the money is moving around twice as fast. Works out to the same thing.)

Anonymous said...

Great points by all.
1) The dollar is worth less, so the dow seems higher. Is less, with inflation added in, than in 2000.
2) With interest rates at 0, there is no incentive for ANYone or corporation to hold onto money, as inflation will eat any savings, so might as well put it into the market and try to hit the dow lotto.
3) My company complains that it can't find skilled workers. We are hiring at $9.50/hr, require drug, credit and criminal background check. If you have more than one bill late in the last six months, no job. If you are willing to accept a job at 9.50, you probably have at least one bill past due.


wolfwalker said...

"I'm far from the only one picking up this vibe..."

No, you're definitely not. There are all kinds of signs that another "slowdown" is in the offing. Plunging gasoline deliveries (which means plunging gas consumption) is one. Another is an esoteric little thing called the Baltic Dry Index, which has to do with the cost of shipping bulk dry goods -- ie, raw materials for manufacturing. It nose-dived right after the first of the year and is down about 60% for the year. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, champion British economic-doomcrier, recently reported that ship-owners are chartering ships for zero profit -- the charter pays only operating costs. That's about as bad as it gets in the shipping industry.

Zendo Deb said...

The "technocrats" in charge of the Euro (and in charge of Greece and Italy) have so far been able to keep elections at bay.

But short of throwing over the Greek constitution and declaring that Brussels (or Berlin) is in charge, there will be Greek Elections in April.

Expect to see all the "agreements" abrogated. I think Greece will leave the Euro and the EU. (It isn't clear they can leave the Euro without jumping completely out of the EU.) At that point, the Greek economy will implode, but it will do it quickly - and more importantly - democratically.

wolfwalker said...

One other point to ponder: consider that five years ago, Republicans were pointing to the soaring stock market as evidence that the economy was strong, and Democrats were ranting about how stagnant wages and inflation in food and energy prices meant that 'main street' wasn't sharing in the boom times.

We all know who was right, don't we?

Today, Democrats are pointing to the soaring stock market as evidence of a strong economy, and Republicans are ranting that stagnant wages and inflation mean that 'main street' isn't sharing in the recovery.

Anybody care to bet on who will be proven right this time around?

Seerak said...

I visited a new gun shop here in Las Vegas just today, Northwest Arms. The owners had relocated here from Mesquite last August. It struck me as odd that they would relocate into the Vegas market, as there has been quite the boomlet in new firearms establishments over the past two years here. I learned about them from an article on that mentioned four Las Vegas gun businesses,of which I had only heard of one -- and the remaining two are still setting up their facilities.

So I asked them why they would choose to "follow the crowd" and risk running headlong into a newly crowded market. Besides, when I was last here around 2001, Mesquite was the fastest growing city in the state. Things would have slowed down since, sure, but was it that bad?

They told me that over a four month span, they saw several businesses in their area go Tango Uniform; a Chevron station, fast food chain restaurants, that sort of things. One after the other, like victims of some sort of economic full-auto fire. You all know about Vegas itself, as foreclosure central it's on the national news. They saw it as a better option than Mesquite.

Scary stuff.

jimbob86 said...

"The leading economic indicators are...... from the planet Mars."

Nope. Mars is a real place.

I think the LEI are entirely notional .... and are from Mordor (aka Chicago).