JP Morgan And Citigroup Agree That The U.S. Economy Is Steamrolling Toward A Recession

Locomotive - Public DomainAs we approach the end of 2015, researchers at both JP Morgan and Citigroup agree that the probability that the U.S. economy will soon plunge into recession is rising.  Just last week, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives asked Janet Yellen about Citigroup’s assessment that there is a 65 percent chance that the United States will experience an economic recession in 2016.  You can read her answer below.  And just a few days ago, JP Morgan economists Michael Feroli, Daniel Silver, Jesse Edgerton, and Robert Mellman released a report in which they declared that “the probability of recession within three years” has risen to “an eye-catching 76%”

“Our longer-run indicators, however, continue to suggest an elevated risk that the expansion is nearing its end, and our preferred model now puts the probability of recession within three years at an eye-catching 76%.”

The good news is that the economists at JP Morgan believe that a recession will probably not hit us within the next six months.  But due to steadily weakening economic conditions, they are convinced that one is almost certain to strike within the next few years

“When we first wrote, only manufacturing sentiment was signaling an above-average probability of imminent recession,” they said. “But recent weakening in the Richmond Fed services survey and the ISM nonmanufacturing index have now pushed the nonmanufacturing sentiment probability up somewhat as well.”

In the short term, the note says that the 6-month likelihood is only 5%, but within a year it stands at 23%, in two years 48%, and in three years the “eye-popping” 76%.

To be honest, I believe that this assessment is far too optimistic, and it appears that researchers at Citigroup agree with me.  According to them, there is a 65 percent chance that the U.S. economy will plunge into recession by the end of next year.  Last week, Janet Yellen was asked about this during testimony before Congress

In testimony before Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, Yellen was asked by Rep. Pat Tiberi about a piece of research released by Citigroup’s rates strategy team Monday.

Specifically, Tiberi, an Ohio Republican, wanted to know what Yellen made of Citi’s conclusion that there is a 65 percent chance of a U.S. recession in 2016.

“The economists said that they would assign about a 65 percent likelihood of a recession in the United States in 2016. Now, 65 percent sounds high to me, but I’m not an economist and I’m not the Fed chair. But zero risk might be too low as well. So what would you assign a risk level of a recession next year?” Tiberi asked.

So how did Yellen respond?

Her answer was about what you would expect

“I absolutely wouldn’t see it as anything approaching 65 percent,” the central banker said.

This reminds me so much of what former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said when he was asked a similar question back in 2008

“The Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession.”

Later on, when the official numbers finally came out and all the revisions were done, we learned that the U.S. economy was already in a recession when he made that statement.

And when it is all said and done this time around, I believe that history will show that a new global recession had already started when Janet Yellen made her statement.

But don’t just take my word for it.  British banking giant HSBC is the largest bank in the western world, and they recently announced that the global economy has already entered a “dollar recession“.  According to HSBC, total global trade has fallen 8.4 percent so far this year, and global GDP expressed in U.S. dollars is down 3.4 percent.

If their figures are correct, a new global recession has definitely begun.

And without a doubt, we have already seen a tremendous amount of global financial turmoil.  This is something that I highlighted in my recent article entitled “27 Major Global Stocks Markets That Have Already Crashed By Double Digit Percentages In 2015“.  When Zero Hedge republished my article, several excellent charts were added that really illustrate how bad things have gotten, and I wanted to share a couple of them with you.  Of the 93 largest stock market indexes in the world, an astounding 47 of them (more than half) are down at least 10 percent year to date.  This first chart shows which ones fall into that category…

47 Out Of 93

Another chart that was added to the article by Zero Hedge shows how decoupled U.S. stocks have become from global stocks overall.  As you can see, U.S. stocks are not too far from recent highs at the moment, but global stocks overall are solidly in bear market territory…

US Stocks And World Stocks

Since mid-2015, trillions of dollars of stock market wealth has been wiped out globally.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The debate is over.  The “major financial collapse” that so many warned was imminent has actually happened.

It is just that U.S. stocks have not gotten the memo yet.  Up to this point they have defied gravity, but at some point U.S. stocks and world stocks will converge once again.

And if you want to see many of the reasons why U.S. stocks will soon take a big tumble, just check out this article.  There is no way that U.S. stocks will be able to defy the underlying economic fundamentals that are pummeling other global markets for much longer.  Just like in 2008, a global stock market slide that starts elsewhere will eventually hit the United States.  It is just a matter of time.

But once again, even though U.S. stocks are doing okay for the moment, that doesn’t negate the fact that more than half of all major global stock indexes are down by double digit percentages year to date.

We have not seen numbers like this since the great stock market crash of 2008, and it seems abundantly clear to me that the great financial shaking that so many warned was coming in 2015 is already happening.

And if JP Morgan and Citigroup are correct, what we have seen so far is just a preview of some very troubling times ahead.

If The Economy Is Fine, Why Are So Many Hedge Funds, Energy Companies And Large Retailers Imploding?

Demolition - Public DomainIf the U.S. economy really is in “great shape”, then why do all of the numbers keep telling us that we are in a recession?  The manufacturing numbers say that we are in a recession, the trade numbers say that we are in a recession, and as you will see below the retail numbers say that we are in a recession.  But just like in 2008, the Federal Reserve and our top politicians will continue to deny that a major economic downturn is happening for as long as they possibly can.  In this article, I want to look at more signs that a dramatic shift is happening in our economy right now.

First of all, let’s consider what is happening to hedge funds.  For many years, hedge funds had been doing extremely well, but now they are closing up shop at a pace that we haven’t seen since the last financial crisis.  The following is an excerpt from a Business Insider article entitled “Hedge funds keep on imploding” that was posted on Wednesday…

BlackRock is winding down its Global Ascent Fund, a global macro hedge fund that once contained $4.6 billion in assets, according to Bloomberg’s Sabrina Willmer.

“We believe that redeeming the Global Ascent Fund was the right thing to do for our clients, given the headwinds that macro funds have faced,” a BlackRock spokeswoman told Business Insider.

The winding down of the Ascent fund is the second high-profile hedge fund closing in 24 hours. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Achievement Asset Management, a Chicago-based hedge fund, was closing.

And those are just two examples.  Quite a few other prominent hedge funds have shut down recently, and many are wondering if this is just the beginning of a major “bloodbath” on Wall Street.

Another troubling sign is the implosion of so many energy companies.  Just like in 2008, a major crash in the price of oil is hitting the energy sector really hard.  Just check out these stock price declines…

-Cabot Oil & Gas down 37.27 percent over the past 12 months

-Southwestern Energy down 68.11 percent over the past 12 months

-Chesapeake Energy down 73.98 percent over the past 12 months

A number of smaller energy companies have already gone out of business, and several of the big players are teetering on the brink.  If the price of oil does not rebound significantly very soon, it is just a matter of time before the dominoes begin to fall.

We are also seeing tremendous turmoil in the retail industry.  The following comes from Investment Research Dynamics

The retail sales report for October was much worse than expected.  Not only that, but the Government’s original estimates for retail sales in August and September were revised lower.  A colleague of mine said he was chatting with his brother, who is a tax advisor, this past weekend who said he doesn’t understand how the Government can say the economy is growing (Hillary Clinton recently gave the economy an “A”) because his clients are lowering their estimated tax payments.  Businesses lower their estimated tax payments when their business activity slows down.

The holiday season is always the best time of the year for retailers, but in 2015 there is a lot of talk of gloom and doom.  Most large retailers will not start announcing mass store closings until January or February, but without a doubt many analysts are anticipating that once we get past the Christmas shopping season we will see stores shut down at a pace that we haven’t seen since at least 2009.  Here is more from the article that I just quoted above

Retail sales this holiday season are setting up to be a disaster.  Already most retailers are advertising “pre-Black Friday” sales events.  Remember when holiday shopping didn’t begin, period, until the day after Thanksgiving?  Now retailers are going to cannibalize each other with massive discounting before Thanksgiving.  Anybody notice over the weekend that BMW is now offering $6500 price rebates?   The collapsing economy is affecting everyone, across all income demographics.

Last week we saw the stocks of Macy’s, Nordstrom and Advance Auto Parts do cliff-dives after they announced their earnings.  I mentioned to a colleague that the Nordstrom’s report should be the most troubling for analysts.  Nordstrom in their investor conference call said that they began seeing an “unexplainable slowdown in sales in August in transactions across all formats, across all catagories and across all geographies that has yet to recover.”  

I think that a chart would be helpful to give you an idea of how bad things have already gotten.  Jim Quinn shared this in an article that he just posted, and it shows the change in retail sales once you remove the numbers for the auto industry.  As you can see, the numbers have never been this dreadful outside of a recession…

Retail Sales Ex-Autos

But stocks went up 247 points on Wednesday so everything must be great, right?

Wrong.

The stock market has never been a good barometer for the overall economy, and this is especially true these days.

In 2008, stocks didn’t crash until well after the U.S. economy as a whole started crashing, and the same thing is apparently happening this time around as well.

One of the things that is keeping stocks afloat for the moment is stock buybacks.  In recent years, big corporations have spent hundreds of billions of dollars buying back their own stocks.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

IBM has blown $125 billion on buybacks since 2005, more than the $111 billion it invested in capital expenditures and R&D. It’s staggering under its debt, while revenues have been declining for 14 quarters in a row. It cut its workforce by 55,000 people since 2012. And its stock is down 38% since March 2013.

Big-pharma icon Pfizer plowed $139 billion into buybacks and dividends in the past decade, compared to $82 billion in R&D and $18 billion in capital spending. 3M spent $48 billion on buybacks and dividends, and $30 billion on R&D and capital expenditures. They’re all doing it.

Later in that same article, Richter explains that almost 60 percent of all publicly traded non-financial corporations have engaged in stock buybacks over the past five years…

Nearly 60% of the 3,297 publicly traded non-financial US companies Reuters analyzed have engaged in share buybacks since 2010. Last year, the money spent on buybacks and dividends exceeded net income for the first time in a non-recession period.

Big corporations like to do this for a couple of reasons.  Number one, it pushes the price of the stock higher, and current investors appreciate that.  Number two, corporate executives are usually in favor of conducting stock buybacks because it increases the value of their stock options and their own stock holdings.

But now corporate profits are falling and it is becoming tougher for big corporations to borrow money.  So look for stock buybacks to start to decline significantly.

Even though it is taking a bit longer than many would have anticipated, the truth is that we are right on track for a massive financial collapse.

All of the indicators that I watch are flashing red, and even though things are moving slowly, they are definitely moving in the same direction that we saw in 2008.

But just like in 2008, there will be people that mock the warnings up until the day when it becomes completely and utterly apparent that the mockers were dead wrong.

 

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