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6 Reasons a Global Recession is Unavoidable

6 Reasons a Global Recession is Unavoidable
Ron DeLegge, Editor
October 5, 2011

Most economists and Wall Street types are reluctant to publicly admit the global economy is in a recession. Their reams of conflicting data are sending mixed messages. But an honest look at key events and the behavior of financial markets solidifies the view that the global recession we're probably already in, is unavoidable. Let’s analyze some of the reasons behind this.

1) The Fed is out of tricks. When it comes to manipulating financial markets in the name of economic security, nobody matches the Federal Reserve’s prowess. Over the past few years, the Fed has engaged in financial gimmickry of such epic proportions that angry calls for ending its existence have been voiced from sea to shining sea. The Fed’s Treasury purchases (POMO) and monetization of debt (quantitative easing), may have delayed the reckoning day, but have these programs really solved America’s long-term problems? The Fed’s latest shift from short-term to long-term debt (Operation Twist) is tantamount to taking money from your right hand pocket and putting it into your shirt pocket. The Fed is running out of time and out of tricks. Ben Bernanke has finally admitted what the general public has known all along; the job situation is a “national crisis.”

2) Stock market says we’re already in a recession.
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and its leading economists still deny the U.S. economy is in a recession. Apparently, their slide rulers haven’t yet confirmed it, so they need a few more quarters before issuing a press release. Meanwhile, the stock market, which is a leading indicator of economic activity, is screaming “recession.” Large company stocks within the S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY) have fallen almost 18% since July. Bulls argue this is still shy of the 20% threshold that confirms a bear market, but even so, mid cap stocks (NYSEArca: MDY) and small caps (NYSEArca: IWM) have already entered bear territory. Today’s stock prices reflect expectations about future earnings, which in turn are connected to the future state of the economy. Expectations are rightfully low.

3) Greece has set the tone for Europe (and maybe the rest of the world).
How many financial targets will Greece continue to miss before forecasters stop regurgitating its false numbers? When will Greece stop embarrassing itself with financial projections it knows aren’t true? Greece’s 2011 deficit was projected to be 8.5% of its GDP but came in almost €1.69 billion above its original targets. Next year, Greece is aiming for a deficit that’s 6.8% of GDP. With the country engulfed in civil protests, job strikes and general chaos – how realistic are its 2012 projections? Financial bets for Greece to succeed are a long-shot. The country’s economic projections are no longer based upon realistic assumptions, but hopes for garnering more bailout money and calming hostile markets. Ultimately, Greece is merely a reflection of the entire EU region – a place where financial aspirations don’t match reality.

4) Bear funds are leading performers.
The two-year period from March 2009 to March 2011 was a difficult existence for bear market funds. After bottoming at decade lows, the stock market skyrocketed and bear funds got clobbered.  But not anymore. Bear funds are investments that, by design, increase in value when the underlying benchmarks they track decline. Now with the stock market swooning, bear funds are posting huge gains. Over the past three months, Direxion’s 3x daily leveraged bear ETFs for large cap stocks (NYSEArca: BGZ) is ahead by 42.97%, mid cap stocks (NYSEArca: MWN) is up 58.30% and small caps (NYSEArca: TZA) is up by 49.76%. Reversing this ominous trend, especially when key technical levels have been pierced, won’t be easy.

5) Major asset classes are in correlation.
During a bear market, the correlation between asset classes typically jumps and this is exactly the case right now. Over the past few months, commodities (NYSEArca: GCC), global real estate stocks (NYSEArca: RWO), precious metals (NYSEArca: GLTR), international stocks (NYSEArca: EFA), and U.S. stocks (NYSEArca: SCHB) have all moved in the same general direction by recording sizable losses. Even gold (NYSEArca: IAU) and silver (NYSEArca: SLV), which previously escaped the wrath of losses, have joined the party. And only cash and bonds (NYSEArca: AGG) are bucking the correlation trend. 

6) Pace of sovereign downgrades is accelerating.
We don’t advocate putting implicit faith in credit ratings, because history has taught us they are nothing more than financial opinions and frequently, not very accurate ones. Still, a gander at the latest downgrading trend is troublesome. Intuitive observers will note, this is not an isolated phenomenon, but a global trend. Sovereign debt from Greece and Portugal, after several downgrades, is now rated junk. Ireland has been downgraded and Italy was just downgraded by Moody's to A2 with a negative outlook. Japan, along with U.S. debt was lowered in August and another wave of more downgrades is coming, so get used to it. 

Investing in an economically stifled climate requires patience, diligence, and forethought. Following the herd mentality guarantees nothing more than mediocrity and making kneejerk financial decisions is an excellent way to lose money. ETFguide’s Profit Strategy ETF Newsletter continues to advocate a fiercely independent view of world events, financial markets, and the proper allocation of money. Ultimately, having an investment strategy that can perform during any kind of market is a good start. 

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