Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Economists See US and Global Recovery

From Bloomberg:

Recovery from the worst recession since the 1930s has begun as President Barack Obama’s fiscal stimulus -- derided as insufficient and budget-busting months ago -- takes effect, a survey of economists indicated.

The economy will expand 2 percent or more in four straight quarters through June, the first such streak in more than four years, according to the median of 53 forecasts in the monthly Bloomberg News survey. Analysts lifted their estimate for the third quarter by 1.2 percentage points compared with July, the biggest such boost in surveys dating from May 2003.

“We’ve averted the worst, and there are clear signs the stimulus is working,” said Kenneth Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board in New York.

The new projections, following better-than-anticipated reports on manufacturing, employment and home construction, echo gains in investor confidence that have propelled the Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index to its high for the year. A rebound may help cushion declines in Obama’s approval ratings, political analysts said.

“The fact that people for the first time in over a year are starting to look at some glimmers of hope plays to the prospect of some strength in the stimulus,” said Susan Molinari, a Republican strategist in Washington who advised Rudy Giuliani during his presidential nomination campaign in 2008.

This echos a point Paul Krugman made recently:

A few months ago the possibility of falling into the abyss seemed all too real. The financial panic of late 2008 was as severe, in some ways, as the banking panic of the early 1930s, and for a while key economic indicators — world trade, world industrial production, even stock prices — were falling as fast as or faster than they did in 1929-30.

But in the 1930s the trend lines just kept heading down. This time, the plunge appears to be ending after just one terrible year.

So what saved us from a full replay of the Great Depression? The answer, almost surely, lies in the very different role played by government.

Probably the most important aspect of the government’s role in this crisis isn’t what it has done, but what it hasn’t done: unlike the private sector, the federal government hasn’t slashed spending as its income has fallen. (State and local governments are a different story.) Tax receipts are way down, but Social Security checks are still going out; Medicare is still covering hospital bills; federal employees, from judges to park rangers to soldiers, are still being paid.

And consider this:

From Bloomberg:

Confidence in the world economy surged to a 22-month high in August on signs the worst global recession since World War II is coming to an end, a Bloomberg survey of users on six continents showed.

The Bloomberg Professional Global Confidence Index jumped to 58.12 this month from 39.13 in July. It is the first time the reading exceeded 50, which means optimists outnumber pessimists. A measure of U.S. participants’ confidence in the world’s largest economy rose to 47.3 from 29.5, the survey showed.

“It’s clear the recession is over and some kind of recovery is underway,” said Nick Kounis, chief European economist at Fortis Bank Nederland Holding NV in Amsterdam, and a regular survey participant. “We have the biggest monetary and fiscal stimulus policy in history, globally, and we’re starting to see it work. Probably the next debate will be about how strong and sustainable the recovery is.”

The MSCI World Index has increased 12 percent in the past month and President Barack Obama said last week’s unexpected drop in the U.S. unemployment rate indicates the worst may be over. Nobel Prize-winner Paul Krugman said Aug. 10 that the world, now in a “rough stabilization” mode, has averted another Great Depression.

I pretty much agree with these statements. First, I think the economy is clearly bottoming. Here are some relevant charts to that matter:

Initial unemployment claims are still dropping

The rate of job losses are decreasing

ISM manufacturing is increasing

New homes sales have bottomed

Existing home sales have bottomed

The New York and Philly Fed are increasing

Retail sales have bottomed

Real PCEs have bottomed

2.) I think an interventionist government is a primary reason for the fact that we are not in the abyss. The Fed's actions -- while controversial -- saved the financial system from collapsing. They also helped to steady the credit markets. The government stimulus also helped to pump money into the economy, adding some much needed momentum to the economic situation.