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US-Economy im ARSCH

Startbeitrag von fliesch am 14.11.2002 03:27

Sorry für die Wortwahl aber ich bin wohl mal wieder etwas übermüdet, da's doch wieder spät wurde :)
Ein alternativer Titel wär: "Wann schnallen's die Amis endlich?!"

Interessanter Artikel vom September:

OMINOUS PARALLELS
by Dr. Kurt Richebacher

For the first time in the more than 50 years since World
War II, the world is in the grips of a synchronized
global economic downturn. This has but one precedent in
history: the Great Depression of the 1930s. The most
striking common feature of both periods is the dominant
role of the U.S. economy in the prior boom as well as in
the following downturn.

Yet there exists a conspicuous difference between the
two cases of American global economic predominance.
During the 1920s, America flooded the world with credit,
acting as the world's lender of last resort, while in
the 1990s it became the world's consumer of last resort,
flooding the world with unprecedented excesses in
consumer spending.

Remarkably, the two U.S. boom episodes were alike in
their heavy disposition towards consumer spending.
However, the borrowing and spending excesses of the
1990s vastly exceeded those of the 1920s. Another
difference of crucial importance is in the state of the
balance of payments. During the 1920s, America was the
world's leading creditor country, running a chronic
current surplus. Today, it's the world's greatest
debtor, running a monstrous deficit in current account
and piling up trillions of foreign debts.

An old bone of contention between American and European
economists is at what time the American Federal Reserve
made its decisive policy mistakes that determined the
protracted depression of the 1930s. Was it the excessive
monetary looseness before the stock exchange crash? That
is the opinion in Europe, strongly influenced by
Austrian theory. Or was it excessive monetary tightness
after the crash, during the 1930s? That is American
opinion, as indoctrinated since the 1960s by Milton
Friedman.

I am a great believer in the logic of Austrian theory.
It says that the severity and length of depressions
depends critically on the kind and the magnitude of the
maladjustments and dislocations that have developed in
the economy and its financial system during the
preceding boom.

This seems to be exceedingly straightforward logic.
Moreover, it has historical experience on its side.

Assessing the present economic situation in the United
States, the key point to realize is that for years it
has been exposed to the most inordinate credit excesses
in history. It has been crystal-clear for a long time
that it was a typical bubble economy, being defined as
an economy where unusually sharp rises in asset prices
fuel extraordinary borrowing and spending binges, either
by businesses (Japan) or by consumers (America).

Established economic theory, by the way, has a strict
measure for "excess" credit - all credit in excess of
available savings from current income that is not spent
for consumption. The essential economic effect of such
saving is to release productive resources that a
borrower may use for capital investment. Traditionally,
the credit cycle has been associated with the investment
cycle.

Credit expansion in the last three years in the United
States has been running at an annual rate of around $2
trillion, accounting thus for about 20% of GDP. Never
mind that combined personal and business savings plunged
in 2001 to barely 2% of GDP. The discrepancy between the
two defies the wildest imagination of a reasonable
economist.

Today's American policymakers and economists apparently
find nothing wrong with this pattern. Least of all do
they understand that such a runaway credit expansion
could do any damage to the economy and the financial
system. Doesn't it boost economic growth and financial
markets? The only serious economic damage they can think
of is rising inflation rates, and their absence in the
past few years testified in their view to the U.S.
economy's excellent health. Another inherent logic is
that this justifies virtually unlimited credit
expansion.

We subscribe to the opposite view - which may be called
classical European economics - that credit creation in
excess of available savings is by itself an evil. It
tends to harm the economy far more than consumer-price
inflation by encouraging reckless spending that
essentially distorts the allocation of real resources.

Of course, the consumer-spending boom of the last few
years in the United States was crucial in propelling the
economy's growth. As a share of GDP, it shot up to an
average of 82.6% between 1995-2001, as against a long-
term ratio of about two-thirds. But it essentially did
so at the expense of saving, capital investment and the
balance of payments.

As domestic demand grew persistently in excess of
domestic output, the deficit in the current account
ballooned from $139.8 billion in 1998 to $417.4 billion,
running lately even at an annual rate of $450 billion. A
large part, if not the greater part, of the rapidly
swelling consumption demand was actually met by foreign
producers possessing the necessary idle capacities.
Since the early 1980s, the nation has moved from a net
creditor position of 13% of GDP to a net debtor
position of 25%. Altogether, this adds up to almost
40% of GDP.

The inevitable domestic result has been a badly split
economy. The part exclusively serving the consumer and
also being sheltered from foreign competition boomed
with strong profit growth, while the sectors that serve
capital investments and are also exposed to foreign
competition have been badly withering with collapsing
profits.

The most striking feature and testimony of this split in
the economy is an extreme divergence in the profit
performance of two sectors - manufacturing and retail
trade. In 1997, manufacturing earned $195.5 billion,
comparing with retail trade earnings of $63.9 billion.
After five years, this relationship has been turned
completely on its head. In the first quarter of 2002,
manufacturing profits had slumped to $68.9 billion,
while retail trade profits were up to $81.4 billion,
both figures at annual rate.

It should be self-evident that this dramatic diversion
in profitability between the two sectors had far-
reaching implications for their investment policies.
While the profitable retail trade sector has grossly
overinvested in relation to sustainable consumer demand,
the unprofitable manufacturing sector has just as
grossly underinvested in plant and equipment. These are
the kind of structural distortions that Austrian theory
emphasizes as the recession-breeding consequence of
major credit excesses.

Assessing the prospects of the American economy, this
big split between consumer-related and investment-
related activity is, certainly, of greatest relevance.
Considering furthermore that it has developed over
years, it cannot be discarded as cyclical. Clearly, the
overall poor profit and capital spending performance is
structural. And with the economy's slowdown it has
dramatically worsened.

For the same reasons, there is clearly no chance under
these circumstances for business investment to lead an
economic recovery. This would have to come almost
single-handedly from the consumer. But for that to
happen, he must do more than keep spending at a high
level. To lead a recovery, consumer spending has to rise
by 3-4%. But in reality, in the second quarter it was
down to an annual rate of 1.9%. Before long, he will
capitulate altogether.

In the end, all questions about the U.S. economy boil
down to one: whether or not business investment will
return with sufficient vigor. But for that to happen, it
needs both a luring profit outlook and accommodating
financial markets.

Neither is in sight.

Though monetary policy could hardly be looser, the
financial markets are nevertheless tightening up against
business financing...and consumer financing is sure to
be next.

Regards,

Kurt Richebacher,
for The Daily Reckoning

Antworten:

Der Typ gefällt mir. Obwohl er einen Newsletter rausbringt, der über eine Firma vertrieben wird, die aggressives Marketing betreibt... sprich mir nicht so gefällt.

Hier Noch was über Aussagen des selben Autors vom 8.1999

Basic Facts Point Inescapably Toward Disaster
The dismal science will never be the same if economist, Dr. Kurt
Richebacher's dire predictions for the global economy should come to pass.

The former chief economist and managing partner at Germany's Dresdner Bank
says a deflationary collapse lies ahead that will ravage the world's bourses
and usher in a dark period of austerity and financial discipline.

Probably not one economist in fifty shares his views, at least not publicly.
Richebacher, now living in France, says many of his American colleagues have
been seduced into ignorance and complicity by Wall Street's billions as well
as by their love affair with mathematical models that shun fundamental laws
of economics.

Where they see a New Era of productivity growth and industrial efficiency,
he sees duplicitous bookkeeping and manufacturing's steep decline. They talk
of a booming U.S. economy, he sees a profitless mirage. They worship
capitalism's bold risk-takers, he scorns them for recklessly piling leverage
to the sky.

Someone's going to be wrong, but judge for yourself who.

Like the theories of Copernicus 500 years before him, Dr. Richebacher's
logic strikes one as no less sound and compelling than the Polish
scientist's once-heretical notion that the earth revolves around the sun.

Richebacher asserts, for one, that the U.S. investment boom in computers
borders on statistical hoax. It began in 1995 with the government's
implementation of a "hedonic" price index designed to capture both the
falling prices and the rapid rise of computational power of each new
computer.

This is akin to measuring GM's auto sales by tallying the horsepower of all
the engines in its cars, says Richebacher.

Applied to the computer business, it has exaggerated investment levels
exponentially. For example, during the 12-month period ended March 31 the
business sector increased its net investment in computers from $91.8 billion
to $97.2 billion, accounting for a paltry 1.3% of nominal GDP growth.

But when government statisticians multiply that $5.4 billion increase by
their hedonic supercharger, the figure swells to $146 billion.

This has worked wonders on America's bottom line, boosting the computer
sector's nominal 1.3% contribution toward GDP growth for the period to 49%,
and the 4% contribution for the years 1996-1998 to 38%. For the first half
of 1999, the effect has been even more pronounced, giving the computer
industry a whopping 93% share of GDP growth.

Remove the computer industry from the ledger, however, and the vastly larger
rest of the economy had actual growth of just 2.5% during the three-year
period versus a reported 4%. Meanwhile, last year's expansion would have
been a middling 2%, and the uptick in productivity that has recently cheered
economists would fade to insignificance.

The obvious question is, how could the computer industry, with barely more
than 1% of the total workforce and plunging product prices, be responsible
for what most economists read as a dramatic improvement in America's
standard of living?

The answer is that it could not. And has not. Hedonic accounting makes the
computer sector look like an economic hero, but any statistically
significant improvement in our standard of living would necessarily have to
come from the spreading use of computers across the entire economy.

Computers are indeed everywhere, but evidence that they have substantially
boosted U.S. productivity remains elusive to say the least, says
Richebacher.

In this assertion he has corroborating testimony from no less an authority
than Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan. In a 1997 speech in Frankfurt, Germany,
Greenspan acknowledged that a straightforward interpretation of certain
service-economy data suggests that productivity -- output per man hour --
has actually been falling for more than two decades.

Greenspan called this implausible, offering the explanation that prices may
have been mismeasured. But whatever the reason for the anomaly, the Fed
chairman is obviously at pains to convince us that he and his staff of PhDs
truly understand how to measure productivity accurately.

If productivity growth in recent years has been largely illusory, the
spectacular expansion of credit during that same time has been all too real,
warns Richebacher (pronounced REESH-a-baisher).

It didn't happen by accident. The economist says the Fed started the real
orgy last fall with a series of rate cuts intended to shore up some hedge
funds that had gotten in way over their heads by amassing huge positions in
leveraged credit instruments.

The Fed's massive gift to debtors quickly found its way into the mortgage
markets, where homeowners ran up new borrowings in 1998 to more than $1.5
trillion, nearly two-thirds of it in refinancings.

The hot money spread like lava into the financial system. Fannie Mae and
Freddie Mac, quasi-governmental agencies which buy up mortgage loans,
expanded their balance sheets four times as quickly as they had the previous
year, with $220 billion of growth versus $61 billion in 1997.

This put an estimated $15,000 into the pocket of each re-fi customer,
kicking off a spending binge that pumped housing and stock prices to record
heights.

It also created a financial bubble whose collapse Richebacher says we will
eventually have to reckon with.

He says the four classic elements of a bubble are all present and most
obvious: 1) money and credit have been expanding vastly in excess of both
savings and GDP growth; 2) inflationary pressures are being channeled
toward, and concentrated in, asset prices; 3) low inflation has kept
monetary policy too loose, and 4) soaring asset prices have overstimulated
domestic borrowing and spending.

The Richebacher Letter circulates widely among top-level financial
decision-makers, probably because it is so good at poking holes in the
prevailing wisdom. What has he been saying lately? Just this:


Profit performance in the U.S. economy has been appalling during the stock
market's steep rise of the last several years, but accounting gimmicks
designed to please Wall Street have masked the weakness. Compared to a year
ago, profits per share on the S&P 500 have declined from $39.72 to 37.71,
and on the S&P Industrial Index from $42.13 to $38.37. Over that time, as
all investors know, the S&P 500 Index of stocks has risen spectacularly.


The trade deficit, which sent $233.4 billion abroad last year, is the
biggest profit-killer in the economy. It has been offset, albeit
precariously, by a household sector that has consumed manically with
borrowed dollars anddissavings.


The bulls believe the Fed will keep the credit machine running full speed if
the economy starts to falter. But "full speed" is not enough, since
sustaining growth in the economy and the stock market will require
ever-larger credit injections. With the personal savings rate already in
negative territory, it is by now manifestly impossible to increase
dissavings to the extent necessary to produce continued economic growth.


The "profit miracle" of the 1990s is nonsense. What kicked the stock market
into high gear earlier in the decade was mainly the one-time effect of lower
borrowing costs induced by a recklessly generous Fed. Profits have weakened
since in absolute terms and egregiously relative to soaring share prices.


The widespread use of stock options to compensate employees has caused
corporate earnings to be grossly overstated, since the options reduce the
amount of wages charged against profits. If properly accounted for, stock
options would have lowered aggregate published profits by 56% in 1997 and
50% in 1998, according to figures Richebacher cites from Smithers & Co., a
London-based research institute.


Derivatives can insure individual market participants against risk, but not
system as a whole. Ultimately they have spurred higher risk-taking through
leverage, exposing the global financial system to the prospect of
devastating failure.


Richebacher, who counts former Fed chairman Paul Volcker among his close
friends, says U.S. economists of the 1960s would more readily have
recognized these problems and acted stridently to counteract them.

Public discussion was still influenced back then by staid economists who
represented the banks and who knew their theory. The current crop, however,
is "really a part of Wall Street's sales force to sell shares."

In contrast with European economists, their theoretical thinking is "not too
deep," and in recent years has been completely eclipsed by mathematical
models that fail miserably in reckoning with the crucial variable of human
behavior.

The current level of thinking is "unbelievable," he says. "How can you
simply overlook a negative savings rate and mountainous trade deficit" in
saying the economy is healthy and robust?

"There is almost no one left in America to pose critical questions about
economic fundamentals," he laments. "The only miracle about the American
economy is the consumer's amazing propensity to borrow" -- a fact which
Richebacher says has delayed a day of reckoning.

Even if there were someone raising such questions, one might ask, would
anyone be listening?


Rick Ackerman 23 August 1999

von fliesch - am 14.11.2002 03:34

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von fliesch - am 14.11.2002 03:48
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