The Recession is Still On
For anyone who had the hairbrained idea that the latest stock market rally was a sign of the return of the good ol’ days, news signaling future woes continues to flood the financial rags.
The housing market in the US and UK is still extending people’s abilities to accept ever more bad news. The Financial Times reports:
The 25 per cent auction discount and the sluggish market give a strong signal that prices have further to fall. But the recent uptick in the auction market also shows the gap is narrowing.
This can mean either of two things; either the housing market is still tanking (in the UK and US), but a turn-around is coming soon, or the housing market is still tanking, and the increase in sales at auction is due to people who have to live somewhere buying at the 25% discount that results at auction, not realizing that prices will fall further still as more mortgate defaults accumulate (since, in the US, as many as 30% of mortgages are still bigger than the asset value). It certainly suggests that the Australian housing market is not at all a safe place to invest currently, although the statistics still look amazingly good there thanks to the naive First Home Buyers.
China, fearing an inflationary spiral, is restricting credit:
Chinese bank lending slowed dramatically in April because of fears that loan growth in the first quarter had been excessive and could pave the way for loans of deteriorating quality, so possibly creating a new round of asset bubbles.
This suggests that nobody there has any real confidence that life is going to get any easier in the near future. Whatever is said of China’s increase in manufacturing, it is occurring in the face of worsening deflation and therefore falling demand. Again we ask, where are the markets going to come from to restart China’s furry toy and other plastic-junk factories? The banks have probably overstepped their mark in spreading around the easy-money:
There have been signs that China’s economy is starting to regain momentum after weak growth in the early months of this year. There was significant growth in fixed-asset investment and industrial output in March. Chinese banks have also lent 4.6 trillion yuan (£460bn) in the first quarter of the year, nearly the total for the whole of last year.
As we described earlier, this is like flogging a dead horse by ramming it with a speeding freight train. Of course the horse will move, but it’s still dead. But according to central bankers such as Jean-Claude Trichet, the recession is over. He is ignoring the magical freight train (the ridiculous amount of new money spirited into existence over the past year) which governments and bankers alike are hoping people will not notice, or at least forget very quickly.
The problems won’t pass until some serious restructuring occurs in advanced economies in order to make them viable. This will take years and, in countries such as Australia, planing for this kind of restructuring (in the form of infrastructure upgrades) is still only talk. Most of this stuff isn’t even on the Parliamentary floor yet.