Recovery Stalls, Stocks Recover

A flood of bad news plus Bernanke saying he will keep rates low sparked a mid-morning pop in equities. If you think equities are tracking recovery, think again – they are floating on easy credit going towards speculation, not investment. Consider these news items:

  • New home sales drop to record lows
  • Home prices fall again
  • Housing inventory (months of supply) rises again
  • Bank lending falls in sharpest decline since 1942 (!!)
  • Consumer confidence falls after it had been rising (double dip?)

Calculated Risk has a plethora of charts on this morning’s announcement that new home sales (seasonally adjusted) fell to record low levels annualized as well as for a month, even below the prior record low of last January 2009, during the height of fear. You might think this a continued reaction to the end of the first-time homebuyer credit, but that credit was extended. Before the report Bloomberg reported that economists had expected a rise, so this report is unexpectedly bad – as bad as any period back before 1963, when the chart starts. Apparently the tax credit had already pulled forward new home buyers, so the extension has few suckers to pull in anymore. We should see a gap in demand for a while.

Lesson to be learned: gimmicks do create demand, they just pull it forward in time. The implications for recovery are profound, as no real recovery happens without new home sales.

New home sales are far more important for the economy than existing home sales, and new home sales will remain under pressure until the overhang of excess housing inventory declines much further

Housing inventory had been falling as banks worked through the subprime crisis, but are now rising again, indicating the second wave for foreclosure and mortgage defaults is beginning:

David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff pointed out this morning that housing prices are falling despite what you may be hearing in the mainstream media (chart courtesy The Pragmatic Capitalist):

The WSJ had a first page prominent article on bank lending falling, the sharpest decline since 1942 at the height of the war economy, which lowered private lending through industrial policy to retool for war. This too is really bad news, as it means banks are not lending but taking all the bailouts and cheap reserves and using it to buy financial assets (Treasuries, stocks).

The rebuttal to those Keynesian cheerleaders is that government stimulus freezes private investment, a phenomenon quite visible in the second half of the the Great Depression. Simple formula:

Banks don’t lend, business doesn’t borrow, people hide their savings in Treasuries = economy is on government life support

Now we begin to have worries on retail. Retail numbers still seem to be improving, and Wal-Mart (WMT) announced good earnings, but warned about declining store comps and deflation in prices, and now Nordstrom (JWN) is warning about 2H10 results. When January numbers were announced, retail seemed to have normalized (see chart from The Capital Spectator), but we may be seeing a snap-back from distressed circumstances, not a return to recovery:

James Picerno had a sound conclusion to this news:

No matter how you slice it, it’s all about the labor market for the foreseeable future—and how the ongoing struggle to mint new jobs will impact spending. The next clue comes tomorrow, when the Labor Department updates the latest initial jobless claims.

About Duncan Davidson 228 Articles

Affiliation: NetService Ventures

Duncan is an advisor to NetService Ventures, where he focuses on digital media and the mobile Internet.

Previously he was at four start-ups: Xumii, a mobile social service based on a Social Addressbook; SkyPilot Networks, the performance leader of wireless mesh systems for last-mile access, where he was the founding CEO; Covad Communications (Amex: DVW, $9B market cap at the peak), the leading independent DSL access provider, where he was the founding Chairman; InterTrust Technologies ($9B market cap at the peak), the pioneer in digital rights management technologies, now owned by Sony and Philips, where he was SVP Business Development and the pitchman for the IPO.

Before these ventures, Duncan was a partner at Cambridge Venture Partners, an early-stage venture firm, and managing partner of Gemini McKenna, a joint venture between Regis McKenna's marketing firm and Gemini Consulting, the global management consulting arm of Cap Gemini.

He serves on the board or is an adviser to Aggregate Knowledge (content discovery), Livescribe (digital pen), AllVoices (citizen journalism), Xumii (mobile social addressbook), Verismo (Internet settop box), and Widevine (DRM for IPTV).

Visit: Duncan Davidson's Blogs

1 Comment on Recovery Stalls, Stocks Recover

  1. Banks continue to show their disdain for Main Street as they posted their sharpest decline in lending
    We know they move money around but they produce nothing. They add nothing to our economy. They are parasites who suck the lifeblood out of our country.
    They manage to filter billions if not trillions of dollars away and pay huge bonuses to their executives who created the enormous debt we are all facing.

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