An economic slowdown is a contraction in the economy. This can be viewed by using several indicators, including lower gross domestic product (GDP), higher unemployment, lower industrial production, lower business investment, a decline in retail sales, and a decrease in corporate profits. Not all of these factors need to be declining for an economic slowdown, but these are some of the main indications to watch for regarding the overall health of the economy. Some consider a recession to be occurring when there are two consecutive down quarters of gross domestic product (GDP). According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, a recession is “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real money, employment, industrial production and wholesale retail sales.”
After so many years following the Great Recession, it’s still quite astounding that job creation remains so slow. This obviously indicates the lack of economic growth, even after trillions of dollars have been pumped into the U.S. economy.
While there has been a lot of optimistic talk in the mainstream media, there have been an increasing number of data points indicating America’s economic growth is still very fragile.
Recently, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released the results of its November 2013 “Empire State Manufacturing Survey,” and they didn’t support the economic growth theory.
This report is an indication of the state of manufacturing in New York. The net result is that overall business conditions fell to their first negative reading since May. New orders also fell 13 points into negative territory at -5.5. Labor conditions worsened, indicating a decline in the average number of hours worked per week. (Source: “Empire State Manufacturing Survey,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York web site, November 15, 2013.)
It’s no wonder that job creation is still lagging: the manufacturing industry is still experiencing a lack of economic growth. In fact, these results indicate that manufacturing is beginning to weaken once again.
We can’t have economic growth if large sectors of the U.S. economy are experiencing a decline in business activity.
On top of the decline in manufacturing, the level of prices paid is beginning to increase to a level above what firms are able to charge clients.
In 2013, prices paid by manufacturing firms increased 3.4% on average, and they are expected to increase four percent in 2014. Manufacturing firms estimate that … Read More
Recently, European Central Bank (ECB) policymaker Jens Weidmann said the strategy of printing money was not the solution to the eurozone crisis. (Source: Carrel, P., “Printing money not the way out of crisis: ECB’s Weidmann,” Yahoo! Finance, November 20, 2013.) Ya, no joke!
Of course, Weidmann was not referring to the Federal Reserve, but to thoughts from within the ECB that perhaps buying assets was another tool to use. He may as well be talking about the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing strategy, though. I’m sure he’s been looking at the Federal Reserve’s massive money printing and its overall ineffectiveness; he’s likely studying the U.S. situation and realizing that the act of simply printing money is not the end-all for achieving success in rebuilding an economy.
There’s that old saying that you learn from other people’s mistakes—that’s what we have here.
The Federal Reserve continues to balk at stopping the money printing. Current Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke expressed his disappointment in the recent jobs market readings in a recent speech, saying there were insufficient reasons to stop the quantitative easing.
Five years of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve and, while it clearly helped the country from a much deeper recession and breakdown, the benefits are stalling.
So I say to Weidmann, fight against the use of quantitative easing via printing money in the eurozone, as it will simply cost the eurozone hundreds of billions of euros and would likely do very little for the economy. The already historically record-low interest rates in the eurozone will suffice.
The same thing should be the case on this side of the Atlantic. … Read More
On goes the government impasse. In fact, it could last a few more days leading up to the debt ceiling deadline next Thursday. In my opinion, it’s only going to get uglier from here.
While I could continue to discuss the politicking in Washington, I’m going to take a break. Well, kind of. With 800,000 federal workers without any pay, it’s going to be tough.
But people still have to eat and survive in spite of the lack of a paycheck—and of course, investors are still looking to profit in spite of the U.S. government shutdown.
A sector I feel will benefit from the impasse is the discount retail sector. With less money to spend, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see many of those 800,000 workers look for cheaper digs to buy goods and services, which is where the discount retail sector comes in.
Heck, I even think the discount retail sector, which did really well coming out of the 2008 recession, will continue to do well even after the government impasse, as people will still have a tendency to gravitate to bargains, especially in a market of uncertainties.
At the top of my list is Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE/WMT), which continues to be the “Best of Breed” in the discount retail sector.
Aside from Wal-Mart, when it comes to big-box stores, there’s also Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ/COST), which may be another strong play in the discount retail sector.
On a smaller scale, take a look at Dollar General Corporation (NYSE/DG), with over 10,800 stores spread across 40 states as of August 2, 2013. Unlike Wal-Mart and Costco, Dollar … Read More