Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.Stock Market in DANGER of Strangling the Bears to Death - Nadeem_Walayat
2. Germany Pivoting East, Exit US Dollar, Enter Gold Standard - Jim_Willie_CB
3.Flight MH17 – Kiev Flash Mob's Last False Flag? - Andrew_McKillop
4.Stock Market Crash Nightmare! - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Gold - The Million DOLLAR Question... - Rambus_Chartology
6.Gold And Silver – BRICS And Germany Will Pave The Way - Michael_Noonan
7.The Jewish Selfish Gene, People Chosen by God, Everyone Else is Goyim to Kill - Nadeem_Walayat
8.The Israeli Promised Land Dream - The Criminal Roadmap Towards “Greater Israel”? - Felicity Arbuthnot
9.Which Way is Inflation Blowing? Watch Commodities - Gary_Dorsch
10.U.S. Economy Quarterly Review and Implications for 2014-2015 - Lacy Hunt
Last 5 days
Death of the U.S. Dollar? Gold an Inflation Hedge? Really? - 29th July 14
We’re Ready to Profit in the Coming Gold Price Correction—Are You? - 29th July 14
Their Economy Will Collapse, Including Ours - 29th July 14
Silver Prices – Megaphone Patterns - 29th July 14
Real U.S. Interest Rates - Fed Exit a Blue Pill? - 29th July 14
Why Israel Should NOT Exist, Just Like Any Other Rogue State - 29th July 14
Gold Still Looking Good - 29th July 14
Silver Price Set To Star - 29th July 14
Our Population Growth Totalitarian Future - 29th July 14
World War 1 Cause and Consequences - The Planned Destruction of Christendom - 29th July 14
Will Crashing Commodities Crash the Stock Market? - 29th July 14
Ukraine MH17 - Washington Thinks Americans Are Fools - 29th July 14
Stock Market Bubble Warning - 29th July 14
Gold Price and U.S. Dollar’s July Rally - 28th July 14
Second Quarter Corporate Earnings: Marching Toward a Strong Economic Recovery - 28th July 14
Time to Put a New Economic Tool in the Box - 28th July 14
Mossad in Gaza, Ukraine and the Cult Of The All-Powerful Elite - 28th July 14
Elliott Wave Gold Price Projection Since 1970 - 28th July 14
Investors Remain Uncertain As Stock Fluctuate Near Long-Term Highs - Will The Uptrend Extend? - 28th July 14
The Mass Psychology Of Decline - 28th July 14
Will the US Destroy the World? - Don’t Expect to Live Much Longer - 28th July 14
GDM and GDXJ Gold Stocks In-depth Look - 28th July 14
Stock Market One FINAL High? - 28th July 14
What It Means - Paradigm Collapse And Culture Crisis - 27th July 14
Wall Street Shadow Banking: You Can’t Taper a Ponzi Scheme: “Time to Reboot” - 27th July 14
6 Tips for Picking Winning Gold Mining Stocks - 27th July 14
Israel's War on Children, Exterminating the Palestinians Future - 27th July 14
Guilt By Insinuation - How American Propaganda Works - 26th July 14
Surprise Nuclear Attack On Russia To Liberate Ukraine - 26th July 14
Use "Magic" Of Gold/Silver Ratio To Greatly Increase Your Physical Holdings - 26th July 14
Derivatives Market Species Origins - Abuse, Props and Risks - 26th July 14
Stock Market Manipulation and Technical Analysis - 26th July 14
China’s Stock Market Finally Looks Like A Buy - 26th July 14
Ed Milliband Fears Israel Jewish Fundamentalist Gaza War Massacres Backlash - 26th July 14
The Big Energy = Power Battle Is Coming - 25th July 14
USrael - Zionists in Control of America's Goyim Brainwashed Second Coming Slaves - 25th July 14
More Weakness Ahead for Gold Miners - 25th July 14
Gold Price Strong Season Starts - 25th July 14
Geopolitics and Markets Red Flags Raised by the Fed and the BIS on Risk-taking - 25th July 14
Gold Lockdown Until Options Expiry - New Singapore Gold Contract Threatens Price Manipulation - 25th July 14
The Bond Markets, Black Swans, and the Tiny Spirit of Santo - 25th July 14
No Road Map For Avoiding The Future - 25th July 14
Israeli War Machine Concentrating Women and Children into UN Schools Before Killing Them - C4News - 25th July 14
Israeli Government Paying Jewish Fundamentalist Students to Post Facebook Gaza War Propaganda - 25th July 14
Why the Stock Market Is Heading For A Fall - This Time Is Not Different - 25th July 14
An Economic “Nuclear Strike” on Moscow, A “War of Degrees” - 25th July 14
BBC, Western Media Working for Israeli Agenda of Perpetual War to Steal Arab Land - 25th July 14
Ukraine: What To Do When Economic Growth Is Gone - 24th July 14
Stock Market Clear and Present Danger Zone - 24th July 14
The Five Elements to Creating a Something-for-Nothing Society - 24th July 14
Instability is the New Normal? - 24th July 14
Israel's Suicide Bombers Over Gaza - 24th July 14
EUR-AUD Heads Into The Danger Zone - 24th July 14
Tesco Supermarket Death Spiral Accelerates as Customers HATE the Mega Brand - 24th July 14
Ukraine MH17 Crisis - Best Remember Who Your Friends Are - 24th July 14
Three Reasons Why Gold Price and Gold Stocks Will Rise - 24th July 14
HUI Gold Bugs Fighting To Break Downtrend - 23rd July 14
What Putin Knows About Flight MH17 - 23rd July 14
Why Microsoft Will Continue to Rebound, Huge Upside Potential - 23rd July 14
Will Putin Survive? - 23rd July 14

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

The Biggest lie in Stock Market History Revealed

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

© 2005-2014 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

Free Report - Financial Markets 2014