Thursday, June 24, 2010

When in doubt, go to the Bonddad...

I first heard the Bonddad (aka Hale Stewart, a Tax Lawyer from Texas) on Johnny Wendell's KTLK Radio Program, and it was their conservations that prompted my recent interest in Economics.

Whenever I read his blog, I am always reassured. Even when things look like or are actually going to hell, I understand why (a biggie in my book). He's got enough knowledge (and writing skills) to tell me what's happening, explain it clearly, and tell me what I should look for, and why I should or shouldn't be worried.

Here's his latest:

Household spending is increasing but remains constrained by high unemployment, modest income growth, lower housing wealth, and tight credit.

We've seen PCEs and retail increase for the better part of a year. But these increases are coming off of very low levels caused by the recession. In addition, there is little reason to think we'll see robust increases in this number given the unemployment and income situation.

Business spending on equipment and software has risen significantly; however, investment in nonresidential structures continues to be weak and employers remain reluctant to add to payrolls.

About half of the investment equation is solid. Businesses are increasing in capital areas that increase productivity. Commercial real estate is still in poor shape and businesses are still reluctant to hire.

Housing starts remain at a depressed level.

And they will for the foreseeable future. As NDD and I highlighted a few days ago, housing is still suffering from a massive inventory overhang.

Financial conditions have become less supportive of economic growth on balance, largely reflecting developments abroad.

Europe is a problem. I think we figured that out. The real question is what is the depth of the problem. Should the EU's policy response continue to develop positively, I think we'll be OK. The main problems is they are trying to coordinate a $1 trillion dollar plan by building a consensus in the EU community -- an obviously difficult task.

Bank lending has continued to contract in recent months

Yes it has. But that is normal. Consider this chart from the St. Louis Federal Reserve:

First, the chart is in logarithmic scale. While the depth of the latest contraction is sharper, it is normal for credit to contract at the beginning of the expansion. In other words, the latest contraction is hardly a new or historical development.