Slowly the stock market is telling us to expect another recession, even while there is a kind of wobbling improvement in the depressed housing sector and the unemployment ranks.
Writes Comstock Partners to investors:
"At best, we think the economy will be disappointing in the period ahead. Consumers, who account for about 70% of GDP, are hamstrung by debt. In addition they have kept up their spending only by running their savings rate back down to 3.8% of disposable income, only the fifth month below 4% since 2007. Other limiting factors are low wage growth, high unemployment, the large numbers of workers who have dropped out of the labor force, declining home prices, higher tax payments and a flattening out of transfer payments. Therefore it no wonder that consumer confidence still remains at recessionary levels.
"Still ahead is the so-called "fiscal cliff", another conflict as we approach the debt ceiling again, a contentious election, and the continued inability of a dysfunctional congress to get anything done."
To that you can add the worsening credit crises and an accompanying slump in most of Europe and the slowing of growth in China and India.
The policy purveyors on both sides of the Atlantic, at least, are at odds within their own countries and trans-nationally. Germany, for now, is doing well, obviously, as is adjacent Austria. The Merkel regimen of low and declining deficits, relatively low taxes and reduced regulations, along with cuts in entitlement spending have kept Germany out of the grim conditions prevailing in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy. Looking over here, the Germans find it hard to believe there is any merit to the stimulus practices of the Obama Administration, since their whole policy is to avoid that approach.
Surely the Germans mostly have it right. What is lacking, however, is a strong enough supply side focus: extensive lowering of tax rates and reductions in regulations. Even though, as in Canada, the locals can see that they are doing better than citizens in more profligate lands, sobriety alone doesn't sell.
Much of the West has been on a binge. The left offers Hair of the Dog, though the pleasant effects are fleeting. Vitamins, solid food and exercise surely are in order; but it helps to emphasize as well the brighter future ahead. Mr. Romney needs and the Republicans in Congress need to get this advoce even more urgently than Mrs. Merkel.