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  • A Lost Generation

    It is pretty well established that a tax increase, especially an income tax increase, will have an immediate negative effect on the economy, with a multiplier of between 1 and 3 depending upon whose research you accept. As far as I am aware, no peer-reviewed study exists that concludes there will be no negative effects. The US economy is soft; employment growth is weak – and yet we are about to see a significant middle-class tax increase, albeit a stealth one, passed by the current administration. I will acknowledge that dealing a blow to the economy was not the actual plan, but that is what is happening in the real world where you and I live. This week we will briefly look at why weak consumer spending is going to become an even greater problem in the coming years, and we will continue to look at some disturbing trends in employment.

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  • Will the Real Unemployed Please Raise Your Hands?

    This week’s letter will be a very short part of a book I am writing with Bill Dunkelberg (the Chief Economist of the National Federation of Independent Businesses) on the future of employment. It has taken longer to write than I initially anticipated, for a host of reasons, chief among which is that the future is not as obvious as I originally thought. Diving into the data has brought a few surprises. It doesn’t help that I have (probably to the frustration of Dunk, although he is way too polite to say it) changed the focus from “merely” what we need to do to create jobs (which is still an important part of the book) to what kinds of jobs will the future bring and who will get them.

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  • QE Infinity: Unintended Consequences

    There is an intense debate going on in the first-class cabin of Economics Airlines about the direction in which our plane should be pointed. And while those of us back in the cheap seats don't get to help decide, knowing where we will land is of intense interest to all of us. This week we listen in on the debate, in the form of speeches and academic postings passed back from first class for the rest of us to read. This type of debate also occurred when Greenspan held rates down at an abnormally low level for a very long time. The unintended consequence of that move was a housing and debt/leverage bubble. Are there potential unintended consequences to Bernanke's current monetary policy, which some are calling Quantitative Easing Infinity? I suggest you put up your tray tables and fasten your seatbelts – the ride could get bumpy as we explore QE Infinity: Unintended Consequences.

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  • A Random Walk Through the Data Minefields

    This Friday finds me sleeping later than I planned … in the lounge at the airport in Stockholm, on my way to Paris. To the great applause of readers all over the world this may be the shortest letter in 12 years. I will write here and on the plane and quit when I land so I can be with friends this evening. No time for exhaustive research, so we will march through random topics that caught my attention this week until it is time to hit the send button. In no particular order, let's jump in.

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  • What Happened to the Jobs?

    In This Issue:

    So How’s That Stimulus Thing Working Out?
    This Time Is Different
    Vancouver, New York, and Maine

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  • Welcome to the New Normal

    Unemployment is high and rising. But if the recession is over, won't employment start to rise? The quick answer is no. We look deeper into the Statistical Recovery and find yet more reasons to be concerned about near-term deflation. This week we consider all things unemployment and ponder the need to create at least 15 million jobs in the next five years to return to a full-employment economy - and the implications for both the US and world economies if we don't. Economic is often about what we can clearly see, and yet it is understanding what we can't see that gives us true insight. We start with a collection of facts that we can see and then begin a thought exercise to find the implications.

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  • Housing: Are We Near the Bottom?

    This week we look at the housing market in some detail. When can we expect it to turn around? Part of the problem is a new wave of foreclosures is coming due, and this time it is not subprime. And that means more problems for the large financial companies. Also, as predicted here, consumer spending is taking a hit as consumers are finding it increasingly difficult to get credit and a deteriorating labor market hits total spending. There are some very interesting details in the data that was released this week. And we take a quick peek at the outlook for inflation. What is in the pipeline, so to speak? It should make for an interesting letter....
  • Additional Thoughts on the Continuing Crisis

    We are entering the next stage of the credit crisis, and one which is potentially more troubling than what we have seen over the past year, absent some policy reactions by the central banks and governments world wide. The crisis was started by an intense run-up in leverage by financial institutions and investors world wide, investing in increasingly risky assets such as subprime mortgages and then the realization that leverage could hurt. The deleveraging process started to intensify last year about this time. The easy part of that process has been just about done. Now is the time for the really hard work. It will not be pretty. In this week's letter, we look at the process and think about its implications for the markets and the economy, and visit some data on the housing market and unemployment....
  • The World Will Not End

    Housing starts rose 9% and the market cheerleaders proclaimed that we have seen a bottom. But not if you look at the actual numbers. New unemployment claims were OK, but not if you look at the actual numbers. And inflation was simply ugly, no matter what numbers you look at. However, oil is down and there is reason to think it may have further to go on the downside. We cover all this and more, as we first look at why the world is not going to end....
  • When Bubbles Collide

    Today, we have to look at the unemployment numbers, and the connection between the credit crisis and the rise in oil of about $16 dollars a barrel in just two days! If there is still room, the dollar is certainly being pushed and pulled by central bankers, who are also worried about inflation. And I doubt we will have room to cover what is a very important rise in inflation in Asia. It is all connected....
  • The Fed at the Crossroads

    Retail Sales Take a Dive Accounting for Inflation The Fed at the Crossroads Sell in May and Go Away South Africa, Flowers, and On the Road Is the economy poised for a recovery, as the stock market seems to expect? Or are we in for another few more quarters...
  • Lies and Other Statistics

    If we are to believe the government statistics, the GDP of the US grew by 0.6% in the first quarter of this year. And unemployment actually fell. And there were only 20,000 job losses. This week we do a quick review of why the statistics can be so misleading. We also look at why I was wrong about the housing number last week, and I highlight what could be a very serious Black Swan lurking in the agricultural bushes....
  • Greed by Four Lengths

    Introduction This week we look at an interesting index of greed and fear, look at the yield curve and the new 30 year Treasury bond, the latest unemployment numbers and a lot more. What do they tell us? Is there a theme or at least a rhyme? Or is it all...
  • The Sacrifice Ratio

    Introduction This week we will look at a few very interesting items that did not make it into last week's forecast, as that letter was already overly long. Bernanke's arrival, the importance of the housing market to the economy, the length of...