Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.BrExit Looks Set to Win EU Referendum, Final Opinion Polls Give LEAVE Lead Over REMAIN - Nadeem_Walayat
2.BrExit Morning - New Dawn for Britain, Independence Day! - Nadeem_Walayat
3.LEAVE Wins EU Referendum - Sterling and FTSE Hit Hard, Pollsters, Bookies and Markets All WRONG! - Nadeem_Walayat
4.BrExit to Save Europe from Climate Change Refugee Migration Apocalypse - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Trading BrExit - Stocks, Bonds, Sterling, Opinion Polls, Bookmaker Odds and My Forecast - Nadeem_Walayat
6.EU Referendum Latest Opinion Polls Show LEAVE Halting REMAINs Surge - Nadeem_Walayat
7.Gold And Silver – Insanity Is World “Norm.” Keep Stacking! - Michael_Noonan
8.Trading BrExit - British Pound Plunges, FTSE Stock Futures Slump on LEAVE Shock Referendum Win - Nadeem_Walayat
9.Gold And Silver: Security, And BREXIT - Michael_Noonan
10.BrExit Vote - "The Trend is Set" -- And What You Should Pay Attention to Next - EWI
Free Silver
Last 7 days
14 Signs the World Is on the Verge of Generational Chaos - 30th June 16
BrExit Stock Market Upwards Crash as FTSE Recovers 100% of Friday Plunge - 30th June 16
Stock Market Rally Runs Out of Steam - 29th June 16
Rapid Growth:The Financial Trends Of Online Gaming - 29th June 16
FTSE and Sterling Brexit Trading, Deconstruction of the EU Referendum Result - 29th June 16
Stock Market Bounce May be Over - 28th June 16
Stock Market Meltdown Likely to Drive Gold Towards $1,500 - 28th June 16
Brexit Victory over the EU Globalists - 28th June 16
Brexit Psyop: Greenspan Falsely Blames the Brits for the Crash and Chaos to Follow - 28th June 16
Greenspan Calls Brexit a ‘Terrible Outcome’ as Euro Area Tested - 27th June 16
Stock Market SPX Below Mid-Cycle Support - 27th June 16
Best Holidays for Summer 2016 - 27th June 16
Another Stocks Bear Market? - 27th June 16
BBC EU Referendum Result Highlights - YouGov, Markets, Bookmakers, Pollsters ALL WRONG! - 26th June 16
Investors Map Post-Brexit Strategies Amid Global Market Upheaval - 26th June 16
Gold Price Weekly COT Update - 26th June 16
First the UK, then Scotland ... then Texas? - 26th June 16
Stocks Bear Market Resumes or Just More Noise - 26th June 16
Gold And Silver: Security, And BREXIT - 25th June 16
Dow, Euro & Brexit Recap - 25th June 16
Resistance Holding Gold Stocks after Brexit - 25th June 16
Venezuela vs. Ecuador (Chavismo vs. Chavismo Dollarized) - 25th June 16
Gold, Silver And PM Stocks Summer Doldrums Risk - 24th June 16
Here’s Why China “Economic Hard-Landing” Worries Are Overblown - 24th June 16
Jubilee Jolt: Markets Crash, Gold Skyrockets as Britain Takes Brexit - 24th June 16
BrExit Morning - New Dawn for Britain, Independence Day! - 24th June 16
LEAVE Wins EU Referendum - Sterling and FTSE Hit Hard, Pollsters, Bookies and Markets All WRONG! - 24th June 16
Trading BrExit - British Pound Plunges, FTSE Stock Futures Slump on LEAVE Shock Referendum Win - 24th June 16
EU Referendum Shock Results Putting BrExit LEAVE in the Lead Hitting Sterling Hard - 24th June 16
Final Opinion Poll Gives REMAIN 52% Lead, Bookmakers, Markets and Pollsters ALL Back REMAIN Win - 23rd June 16
Does BREXIT Matter? Outlook for Sterling - 23rd June 16
Keep Calm and Vote BrExit - Last Chance to Break Free of EU Superstate - 23rd June 16
Here’s the Foreign Policy Trump and Clinton Really Want - 23rd June 16
Details Behind Semiconductor Stocks Leadership - 23rd June 16
Trading BrExit - Stocks, Bonds, Sterling, Opinion Polls, Bookmaker Odds and My Forecast - 23rd June 16

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Market Volaility

NY Fed Mortgage Debt Data Says No US Economic Recovery

Economics / US Debt Nov 30, 2012 - 07:42 AM GMT

By: Raul_I_Meijer

Economics

Let me try to keep this short and still make the point I want to make. Lately, I've seen a huge amount of people talking about an economic recovery, certainly in the US, so much so that people who disagree with that assessment are labeled "doomer" or things like that. Again. It's an easy thing to do.


I'll start with a graph from this New York Fed report. It depicts the - almost - 10-year development of US household debt, which culminates in a total of $11.31 trillion at the end of Q3 2012.

The conclusion many people draw from the graph is that total debt is "still" falling. And that is supposed to mean that things are going well, or better if you will. But when I look at the graph, that's not the first thing I notice. What I see is mortgage debt at around $5 trillion in Q1 2003 and, after a peak just over $9 trillion in Q3 2008, slightly lower, at $8.03 trillion (the report provides the exact number), in Q3 2012.

Which means that mortgage debt may have come down by about 11% over the past 4 years (while home prices, mind you, fell 33%, as per Case-Shiller), but it's still 60% (!) higher than it was in 2003. And one thing is certain: it can't stay there, and it won't. We can discuss till we're blue in the face how much it still has to go on the way south, and we can argue about how long that will take, but I would think the main point is very clear.

That is, an economic recovery in the US is not possible when households still have to deleverage to the tune of $2-3 trillion. And no, it's not different here, or this time, and no, Americans cannot carry a 40% mortgage debt increase in 10 years either, so another $2 trillion move south is really the minimum.

Home prices are rising a little, says Case-Shiller now. If that were to last, mortgage debt would even rise again. Unless enormous amounts of the old existing debt were cancelled, forgiven, restructured. Well, it took more than four years to shave off 11%. So you tell me, where would that sudden drop come from?

It's not going to happen, is it? So unless you would want to argue that $8.03 trillion is the new black, something's got to give. Rising home sales and rising home construction only serve to increase the debt. While the graph leaves no doubt that the debt must decrease. By about 25-30% from where it is now ($2-3 trillion of $8 trillion), and 40-60% of the $5 trillion it was in 2003.

Now, you could argue that people will simply need to spend a - mostly substantial - larger part of their income on paying off their mortgage debt. And many undoubtedly do exactly that as we speak. But that tears into their disposable income. And personal consumption is good for 70% of US GDP. Poof! goes your recovery.

Wait, talking about GDP, today's GDP report from the BEA came in at +2.7%. Everybody happy! Not ideal, but not at all bad either, right? I mean, compared to Europe, compared to a few years ago, it spells recovery all over. So I couldn't help laughing when I read this quote at Business Insider:

"The uptick in economic activity was driven almost entirely by the sharp upward revision to the estimate of inventory accumulation," wrote TD Securities Millan Mulraine. "The upswing in inventory alone contributed a chunky 0.89ppt to the increase in headline GDP, more than offsetting the 0.53ppt drag from personal consumption activity - which was revised lower from 1.9% to 1.4%, marking the slowest pace of consumption growth since Q2 last year.

" ..Sharp upward revision to the estimate of inventory accumulation". I'll be the first to admit I don't even really know what that's supposed to mean. But I do have an idea. And that idea is that someone's trying to make a fool out of me. Estimate? Who's doing the estimating? Based on what? An upward revision of 0.89% of headline GDP compared to last quarter, just in that inventory estimate? Is that all new stuff, or has existing inventory gone up in value? Any shadow inventory involved?

It's sort of like this quote that struck me in an interview Joe Weisenthal ran with Bill McBride of Calculated Risk last week. Which contains a lot of the very happy news I have my doubts about and that I wanted to write this article for:

... I’m pretty sure about the timing that auto sales were going to collapse a lot further, and he had some arguments on it and I went and looked and thought “auto sales also can’t go too much further, people have to replace their cars.” And so I wrote this article that says look, auto sales are near the bottom – we were at a 9 million annual rate then- I said there’s just no way – we have to be selling 12, 13,14 million because people need new cars every 5-7,8 years.

I do like Bill McBride, and his work, and I do like Joe Weisenthal, but I'm sorry, I simply don't think you can say things like that. It harks back all the way to the dry semantic discussion of what it is that people may a) need, b) demand and c) want. You can't say that people will buy cars because they need a new one every 5-8 years. Because they will still need to have the money to buy them. Demand is what people can afford, not what they want.

And if you look at overall household debt levels, as I've been doing here, you realize that there's no way a bottom or even uptick in US car sales is NOT paid for with more credit/debt. And at this point in the game, with debt levels where they are, that can hardly be a good idea. Sure, it may lift stocks for a bit, since everyone still thinks the S&P reflects something real, but that one simple graph hammers any recovery conclusion you may draw from that.

What a graph like the NY Fed one above tells you is that the low-hanging fruit has been picked when it comes to household deleveraging. On top of that, the fact that the debt itself has come down only a third of the drop in actual home prices, tells you there's much more to come on the way southbound. Or, rather, in this day and age, the way underwater.

Anyway, I just meant to say that I think this drive towards promoting the idea of recovery is way premature. All Optimism Bias all the way. People like Bill McBride may claim they simply follow the data, but I think they simply pick the data they follow. That said, if anyone has a better, re: more positive but still credible, interpretation of the NY Fed data - and graph - , I'm all game. I can do with some good news. It's been a while. But that by itself doesn't make me a doomer. I'm just not as desparate for good news as some people seem to be. I still prefer reality. For now.

By Raul Ilargi Meijer
Website: http://theautomaticearth.com (provides unique analysis of economics, finance, politics and social dynamics in the context of Complexity Theory)

© 2012 Copyright Raul I Meijer - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

Raul Ilargi Meijer Archive

© 2005-2016 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Catching a Falling Financial Knife