Tuesday, January 27, 2009
This just in from David Rosenberg at Merrill Lynch (hat tip JN):
Not your father’s recession, but maybe your grandfather’sThe "youthful demographics" in today's money management industry are probably a big part of the reason why they're even having this discussion.
In our marketing tour through Europe last week, we brought along our new chart package entitled “Not your father’s recession, but maybe your grandfather’s”. Looking at the youthful demographics that characterize today’s money management industry, we should have probably gone with “great-grandfather’s” instead.
How is a depression defined?
It shouldn’t come as any big surprise that with such a provocative title, we would be saddled with questions as to how an economic depression is even defined. Of course, most portfolio managers still don’t know that a recession is not defined as back-to-back quarters of negative real GDP prints (which we had neither in 2002 nor 2008) but instead the timing of the peaks in real sales activity, employment, industrial production and organic personal income growth.
Father, grandfather, great-grandfather?
It has already become quite entertaining to watch how the financial media and the mainstream media tip-toe around the "D" word. Mr. Rosenberg does not feel the need to.
We are likely enduring a depression todayMean reversion is only fun when you are below the mean.
As for depressions, there is no official definition, except to say that they have existed in the past. There were no fewer than four in the nineteenth century, one in the twentieth century, and we are very likely enduring another one today. Though this current one is muted by the fact that most countries have an elaborate social safety net (deposit insurance, unemployment benefits, welfare, and socialized health care).
Depressions can last anywhere from three to seven years
Depressions are basically long recessions – they can last anywhere from three to seven years, while historically cyclical recessions last 18 months – and tend to follow years of leveraged prosperity of Gatsby-like proportions. Considering that in this most recent leveraged cycle from 2002-07, we reached a point where a record 40% of corporate profits were derived from financial activities, where household debt relative to income and assets surged to unprecedented levels and the personal savings rate briefly went negative at the height of the housing bubble, it is safe to say the down-cycle we are currently experiencing did indeed follow a classic elongated period of leveraged prosperity. It is now reverting to the mean.