Let’s see. Auto sales as predicted plunge after the artificial C4C stimulus, ISM falls short of expectations, personal consumption expenditures are up but throw out auto purchases and it doesn’t look all that great and the unemployment numbers went the wrong way.
Want to look on the bright side? Construction spending shows some signs of life, the ISM numbers still indicate expansion and pending home sales were up.
I’d like to take the glass half full position but I just don’t see it. With all of the stimulus being thrown at this economy we should be starting to hum at this point in time. Right now, about all you can say is that we aren’t in free fall anymore. That’s scant comfort for those that have been most afflicted by this bear of a recession and I think they’re likely to be wrapped in the cold embrace of a miserable economy for quite some time.
I think that you can expect to see a couple of developments if this trend continues. They might not come into full bloom until after the holidays as there will likely be some boost from the Christmas season but it’s hard to see it carrying through afterwards.
First, Krugman and the “second stimulus” crowd will start braying for more government money. Never mind that given all of the stimulus flowing from the Fed and the Treasury the economy should be starting to buzz right now. One would hope that this crowd would realize that there may be some issues that transcend simple pump priming and get to work figuring out what the structural imbalances might be that threaten to turn this recession into a years long slump. At some point you quit throwing money at a problem and figure out what exactly the problem might in fact be.
Having said that, expect the pols to double down on gimmicks like the housing tax credit. It’s a lock that it will be extended and probably expanded to include anyone who can walk and not necessarily chew gum at the same time. We could see C4C resurrected and who knows what other products they might decide to artificially prop up.
Of course, the American consumer isn’t dumb. They figured out just after 9/11 when the O% car financing was introduced for a “limited time” that It was really a deal with no expiration. Once it expired they went on a buyers’ strike and sure enough the car companies brought it back. Take away the housing credit and watch demand evaporate. This is how you create an economy built on “blue light specials.” A K-Mart economy if you will.
It all seems to be too much smoke and mirrors. Blow up little economic bubbles here and there and hope that cumulatively they get things rolling again. Sooner or later maybe we’ll recognize that bubbles got us into this mess and that they won’t get us out of it, but if you face that reality you then have to start making hard choices. Don’t hold your breath.
Note: As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I’m trying to refrain from delving too deeply into the nuts and bolts of the numbers for a lot of these economic reports. For those that want more information on the economic numbers of the day with useful links, visit Calculated Risk. The writer of that fine blog produces the best and most useful data around with great links for those who want to get further into the subject. Links here and here.