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Les Lofton
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Posted - 01/08/2009 :  2:51:48 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote Report Abuse


It's almost worth the Great Depression, to learn how little our big men know.
-Will Rogers

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Posted - 01/08/2009 :  2:58:29 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote Report Abuse

I get "currently unavailable". Can you copy and paste it?
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Les Lofton
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Posted - 01/08/2009 :  3:16:57 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote Report Abuse

Economic Analysis
Economics | United States
08 January 2009
David A. Rosenberg +1 212 449 4937
North American Economist
Merrill Lynch does and seeks to do business with companies covered in its research reports. As a result, investors should be aware that the firm may
have a conflict of interest that could affect the objectivity of this report. Investors should consider this report as only a single factor in making their
investment decision.
R efer to important disclosures on page 8. 10801421
E conomic Commentary
Focus is on the cure,
not the patient
#56256;#56452; Like dj vu all over again
The equity market appears to be buying into the consensus view that we will see
the last negative real GDP print in the second quarter, and then revert to +1.3% in
the third quarter and +1.8% in the fourth. This is like dj vu all over again, as it
was this same time last year that the consensus was calling for the fourth quarter
of 2008 to be the best quarter of the year because of the lagged effects of Fed
easing. The forecast was for +2.6% annualized growth. Not only was the fourth
quarter not the best, it was the worst, and actually looks set to come in at nearly a
-6% annual rate.

Market not discounting that recovery will take more time
We have enjoyed a big equity market rally in the past six weeks that seems to be
discounting a very quick end to the economic contraction with the arrival of the
new administration and all of its political capital. However, Im left wondering what
the market reaction will be when it becomes clear that the recovery will require a
lot more time, because history shows that it is not at all unusual to see the entire
period of extremely weak economic performance last between two and three
years in the aftermath of a busted asset and credit bubble of the magnitude we
have just seen.

Consensus making predictions based on linear data
At the same time, what I see is a forecasting community that continues to make
predictions based upon linear data that have been completely interrupted by the
secular change in the credit cycle. And I think because this is all so far beyond our
own collective experience, the tendency has been to underestimate the role that
asset deflation and debt repayment plays in the economy.

An unprecedented loss of household wealth
For example, we estimate that the cumulative loss of household wealth as of the
fourth quarter was probably north of $13 trillion, based on what home prices and
equity valuation did since the end of September, which would bring the total loss
to over 20% from the peak of mid-2007. This is unprecedented in the post-war

Aggressive stimulus will only cushion the blow
So far, the impact to the household balance sheet is double what was created by
the 2001-02 tech wreck, and half the loss incurred during the Great Depression.
By any measure, this hole that has been created in the household balance sheet
is huge, and history shows there to be a 90% historical correlation between
household wealth and the personal savings rate, which is now on a discernible
uptrend. The lagged impact from the unprecedented negative wealth shock on
the personal savings rate is likely to be substantial and expectations that the Fed,
Treasury or Congress have some magic wand are wholly unrealistic. At best, all
the aggressive policy stimulus will do is cushion the blow.

Marginal household using its resources to meet basic needs
The reality is that the marginal household is going to expend all of its resources to
ensure that monthly housing payments are met, there is enough food on the table
for the family, the childrens education needs are looked after and the depleted
retirement nest-egg is replenished.

Attitudes toward spending and debt have shifted
Economics is a behavioral science. It is surprising to me that so many economists
lock themselves into a black box and cant see that there is a generational
change going on in terms of how households, at the margin, are allocating their
budgets toward discretionary spending and how they are approaching the
concept of credit. Attitudes toward non-essential spending and debt have
changed. This is not just a cyclical development, but a secular shift.

Demand for credit remains weak
The 2001-07 experience of no-doc loans, 0% financing, option ARMs and
subprime credit has proven to be a nightmare for many households. There is
more than enough survey evidence from the Fed to show that it is not just the
supply of credit that has tightened dramatically. Household demand for personal
loans and residential mortgages has scarcely been as weak as they are today,
despite the plunge in interest rates and all the Feds efforts to boost liquidity.

Most households doing their best to keep up with payments
The problem is that after seven years of reckless lending and borrowing behavior,
households are spending a near-record 14% of their after-tax income on interest
and principal to cover the mountain of debt that has been taken on. It has
reached a point where the household sector is spending more on interest than it
is on food. Im not sure that is sustainable. While some households are walking
away from their debt (ie, jingle mail) or are becoming delinquent, the majority are
doing their best to stay current because missing credit payments with regularity
can reduce ones FICO score by between 70 and 130 points.

Marginal household has a risky credit profile
Fully 35% of a persons FICO score boils down to ones history of making
payments on time. The average FICO score today now is down to 690 after the
borrowing spree of the past seven years. Yet to obtain a plain-vanilla 30-year
fixed rate mortgage, the minimum score is 760. For a 15-year HELOC, it is 740.
And, for a three-year auto loan, the minimum FICO is 720. This is a primary
reason why the credit cycle is not about to be revived. It is not that standards are
too tough as much as the unprecedented borrowing binge over the past seven
years has left the household sector, at the margin, with a credit profile that is too
risky for the banking community to justify to their shareholders.

Heres the problem: we have too much debt outstanding
Meanwhile, the government thinks that we have a supply problem when it comes
to credit. The government is doing everything in its power to re-start the credit
cycle, but heres the problem: we have so much debt outstanding that were all
choking on it. The aggregate level of private sector debt relative to GDP is still
near a historic peak of 172%, and it only began to correct in the first quarter of
2008. Even with all the modifications and write-downs, the household and
business debt-to-income ratio is still 50 percentage points above the long-run prebubble
norm. So, it is difficult to believe that we can actually embark on a new
credit cycle when the level of outstanding private sector debt remains $6 trillion
beyond the bounds of what the economy has traditionally been capable of
As evidenced in the past year, the process of unwinding this excess credit is
enormously deflationary. The Fed, Treasury, Congress and the incoming Obama
administration have the daunting task of ensuring that this transition phase toward
debt elimination is as orderly as possible, basically to promote social stability.

Housing led us in and will likely lead us out
In the meantime, its doubtful that anything is going to bottom in advance of the
housing sector, which led the contraction in credit, the bear market in equities and
the recession. Since housing led us in, I think its going to have to be the area of
the economy and the markets that leads us out, and Im talking specifically about
home prices, which peaked in the summer of 2006. I remain convinced that there
is at least another 15% downside to nationwide home prices as the problems on
the coasts migrate to the financial centers in the Northeast.

Completions running nearly 90% above the rate of sales
Despite the fact that the builders have taken starts down to all-time lows, the
problem is that completions of single-family homes of 760,000 units at an annual
rate in November were running nearly 90% above the level of new home sales,
which have plunged to 407,000. Thats a gap we havent seen in 14 years, which
is why it is laughable to suggest that the builders have made great inroads in
redressing their inventory overhang. We think nothing could be further from the

There are still more sellers than there are buyers
Now, when I say another 15% downside to home prices, it is strictly about looking
at the supply and demand curves. The reality is that when you have 10.6 months
supply of unsold single-family homes in the resale market, an unbelievable 16.7
months supply of unsold condos and on top of that, an 11.5 months supply of new
unsold housing inventory, the data are telling you that there are still more sellers
than there are buyers, even at the latest depressed price point. Its not that
people dont want a house at all; they just dont want the debt obligation that goes
along with it. That is what the Fed surveys show unequivocally household
demand for mortgages and consumer credit has never been as low as it is today.
This is a major theme for 2009, and a deeply deflationary theme at that.

Housing inventory remains elevated
As a sign of how weak the demand for housing remains, more than three years
after the peak was turned in, existing home sales plunged 8.6% in November to
4.49 million units (annual rate) and the level of single-family sales is now down to
11-year lows. That is flattering because 45% of Novembers sales had to do with
distressed foreclosure activity. The problem is that while re-sales are down more
than 10% in the past year, there has been no decline in the number of homes and
condos that are listed for sale. At 4.2 million units, this inventory is the same
today as it was a year ago, not to mention double what it was during the boom

Still plenty of helium to take out of this balloon
The excess supply is acting as a deadweight drag on prices. Basically, at just
over $180,000 the median value of an existing home is back to where it was
when we published our inaugural bubble report back in 2004. To actually go
back to the home price levels that prevailed when real estate was in the mania
stage in 2001 would mean a retreat toward $150,000 or another 15-20%
downside from here. The move all the way down to $180,000 today from the
bubble peak of over $230,000 in the summer of 2006 sounds big at -22% and it
is for anyone who was buying at that time but keep in mind that median prices
are still 40% higher now than they were a decade ago. In other words, theres still
plenty of helium to take out of this balloon.

Inventory has dropped, but sales have dropped faster
This huge inventory for existing homes is competing head-on with the market for
new homes, where sales are now at their lowest level since January 1991. But
back then, there were 315,000 new homes for sale that had yet to sell, compared
with 374,000 currently. It is 100% true that the level of unsold new inventories is
coming down, but not as fast as sales are. The builders have worked down their
unsold inventory by 25% in the past year, but the problem is that sales are down
35%. The net result is that the unsold inventory remains intractable at 11.5
months supply. It has been north of 11 months supply for four months in a row,
which is unprecedented in the 50-year history of the series. We have a very
limited sample size of other periods when the unsold inventory proved to be so
intractable; only three other occasions in the past four decades. We found that it
took a year to get the inventory ratio below 8 months on a consistent basis, and
not until that happens can we expect to see a decisive floor established under
residential real estate prices.

Taking builders loads of time to unwind finished homes
As a sign of how difficult it remains for builders to find buyers, the median length
of time it took to sell a completed new home was a record 9.3 months in
November. That compares to six months a year ago and four months two years
ago. In a sign that the decline in demand for housing may be more of a secular
story, we also have to consider that in December, following the plunge in
mortgage rates to 30-year lows of just over 5%, the customer traffic component of
the NAHB index fell to a record low of 7. We also saw the U of M homebuying
conditions index fall to 65 from 72 in November.

Housing is no longer viewed as an appropriate asset class
What has caught my eye is that a huge chunk of demand has been lost because
housing is no longer viewed as an appropriate asset class. The U of M survey for
December showed that a record-low 3% of the public see residential real estate
as either a good investment or an asset with price appreciation prospects. At the
peak of the housing boom three years ago, almost 25% of the homes being sold
were being sold for investment purposes.

Builders will have to aggressively cut production
Its worth mentioning that housing demand has continued to collapse even though
homeowner affordability ratios are at their best levels in four decades. So it
seems to me that we are not going to be able to grow our way out of the inventory
mess. Instead, the builders are going to have to become even more aggressive in
cutting production. Until we get to some equilibrium between supply and demand,
house prices will continue to deflate, and the ability on the part of private lenders
to extend credit will remain impaired as more losses become exposed and writedowns
taken, and few households are going to be willing to borrow in order to
finance an asset that is in a secular deflation. Based on our macro forecast, total
credit losses will come to $2 trillion this cycle. As a result, we believe it is tough to
make the assertion that we are even past the half-way mark on the write-down

Fed is ensuring that burgeoning demand for cash is met
While the Fed will continue to boost the supply of money, were not convinced
that velocity or turnover will reaccelerate in time to generate a return to inflation in
2009 or 2010. All the Fed is doing is ensuring that the burgeoning demand for
cash is being met because if the central bank did not move to ensure the liquidity
needs were met, the asset liquidation would be far more acute.

Deflation will be a more enduring theme than most realize
It is perfectly understandable, but still dangerous, to be clueless about the
mechanism that determines whether we experience inflation or deflation. Even
with the upcoming stimulus, this economy, which has been growing below
potential since June 2006, will very likely continue to do so this year and into next
year as well. This means a sustained widening in the output gap; in other words,
growth in aggregate demand exceeding available supply, higher unemployment
rates and lower capacity utilization rates will be a reality as far as the eye can
The deflation story is going to prove to be a much more enduring theme than
many realize, in our view, and investors will want to ensure the portfolio is
positioned for it, which comes down to five characteristics:
#56256;#56452; A focus on safe yield, wherever you can get it: long-term non-callable
government bonds, closed-end muni funds and high-quality corporates.
#56256;#56452; Screen for dividend yield and consistent dividend growth in the equity
#56256;#56452; Whether it be credit or equities, a focus on companies with low debt/equity
ratios and high liquid asset ratios; balance sheet quality is even more
important than usual. Avoid highly leveraged companies at all costs. The
same methodology should be applied to municipal bonds, and differentiate
between those with and without high cash reserves and high debt rollover

#56256;#56452; Ultra-selectivity regarding financials since the real cost of debt and debtservice
rise in a deflationary period, as do default, delinquency and chargeoff
rates. The same can be said for retailing, where margins become
crimped. Screening for inventory turns is very important because cost
containment is imperative as top lines are suppressed by declining final sales
#56256;#56452; Focus attention on sectors or companies with these micro characteristics:
low fixed costs, high variable cost, no unionization, high barriers to
entry/some sort of oligopolistic features and a relatively high level of demand
inelasticity (utilities, staples, health care). Also focus on companies with high
inventory turnover ratios in a deflationary backdrop.

Far too early to be talking about the next inflation cycle
To get the inflation that many are worried about, the policy stimulus is going to
have to go beyond just plugging holes in a leaky boat to reviving growth in
domestic demand to a rate that exceeds the growth rate of aggregate supply
(labor force + productivity growth). The problem is not one of supply, it is about
insufficient demand. And that is why it is far too early to be talking about the next
inflation cycle. The consumer represents 70% of that demand, and were learning
a lot about the consumer with each and every passing data point; to say that
frugality has replaced frivolity has become an understatement.

Sharpest retrenchment in consumption on record
For the here and now, the triple combination of declining employment, eroding
wages and the conscious effort to raise the savings rate is triggering a near
collapse in consumer spending, which peaked in nominal terms in June, has
declined every month since and is down at a 5.2% annual rate. This goes down
as the sharpest retrenchment in consumption on record.
During that time, discretionary spending has collapsed at nearly a 15% average
annual rate: motor vehicles (-38.7%), movies (-36.6%), air travel (-32.7%),
sporting goods (-12.7%), hotels (-12.5%), casinos (-11.7%), jewelry (-10.3%),
furniture (-9.8%), home improvement (-8.2%), appliances (-7.3%), clothing
(-6.6%), computers (-6.5%), electronics (-6.5%), toys (-3.3%) and books (-2.3%).

Even recession proof items are being cut back on
Even so-called recession-proof items like food (-3.6% SAAR) are being cut back
on as households shift from veal marsala to pot roast, and from brand name to
private label (in real or unit terms, food consumption has declined for six months
in a row, so this is not just about lower prices, but also about shifting spending
patterns even when it comes to grocery shopping). Utilities have also declined at
a 4.9% annual rate, though some of this is clearly price related. There are also
widespread anecdotal reports of households falling behind on the monthly gas
and electricity bills.

The areas where consumers are spending their money
The only areas where consumers have allocated more of their budget toward
since the spending peak in June are sundries/drugs (+6.3% SAAR), medical
services (+4.4%), telecom services (+4.8%; the cell phone, we are finding out, is
a staple in this cycle), cable (+7.3%; clearly a substitute for movies, as movie
attendance during the holiday season was off 5% YoY) and education services

Global economy is cratering
The American consumer isnt just 70% of US GDP, but also close to 20% of
global GDP. Its still the largest entity in the world, and were starting to see vivid
signs that the spillover on global trade flows has triggered one of the worst global
recessions in the past century.
What really caught my eye last week in the ISM index was the export component,
which sagged to an all-time low of 35.5 in December from 41.0 in each of the past
two months. This is critical because whatever anemic growth in GDP we saw last
year, it was all accounted for by rising export volumes. That story is over, but
theres even more to it than what it means for large-cap industrials. Korean
exports are down 17% year on year. Taiwan exports are down 38%. Japan just
posted its first back-to-back trade deficits in 28 years. Hong Kong exports are
down 5%. Chinas manufacturing sector has been in a recession for five straight
months and we have reason to believe that real GDP growth there went negative
sequentially in the fourth quarter. India just posted its first decline in industrial
production in 14 years and Russias economy is deep in recession right now.

Global downturns leads to heightened geopolitical tension
History teaches us that global downturns often lead to global conflicts and beggar
thy neighbor economic policies, including currency devaluations, debt defaults,
trade barriers, government procurement policies and heightened geopolitical
tensions. We are already seeing very early examples of this. Ecuador just
defaulted on its foreign debt. Venezuela is considering currency devaluation and
Russia has already embarked on this course, as did Vietnam. The UK has
allowed Sterling to drop to parity against the euro for the first time. There is also
some talk that Japan may intervene in the FX market to prevent the yen from
firming any more than it already has. Brazils trade surplus narrowed to a six-year
low of $24.7 billion in 2008, almost half of the $40 billion surplus posted in 2007
when the BRICs were the darlings of the worlds investor class. The response?
Sanction a 23% depreciation of your currency.
If you read the papers over the holiday period, rampant fiscal stimulus, auto
bailouts and other rescue packages are occurring all over the world. There is a
growing risk of protectionism, which has a historical pattern of following periods of
deep global recessions (ie, this is all about self-preservation). For example, since
that ballyhooed G-20 meeting in Washington in November, five of those countries
Russia, India, Indonesia, Brazil and Argentina have announced their
intentions to raise import tariffs or otherwise restrict trade. Russia has announced
plans to raise tariffs on autos. India has already lifted duties on iron, steel and
soy. Brazil and Argentina are putting together a case within Mercosur for boosting
external tariffs.

A floor under commodities sooner than most think
The risks of growing protectionism are also rising substantially. The failure of
Doha round of trade talks alone could shrink global trade volumes by between
$728 billion and $1.7 trillion. Gold is going to be an important hedge. Security of
supply and government procurement policies may also end up putting a floor
under the beleaguered commodity complex earlier than a lot of people think.
When we see rival banks calling for $30/barrel oil at a time when Market Vane
sentiment on crude and base metals is at just 20% bullish, it sure would look to us
as if the sector is washed out following a record 60% peak-to-trough slide. Our
contrarian instincts are piqued. And, global defense stocks in 2009 should be a
solid investment, in our opinion.

It's almost worth the Great Depression, to learn how little our big men know.
-Will Rogers
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Starting Member

1 Posts

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Posted - 12/22/2010 :  8:58:41 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote Report Abuse

A first-time buyer (FTB) is a term used in the British and Irish property markets, and in other countries, for a potential house buyer who has not previously owned a property.

A first-time buyer is usually desirable to a seller as they do not have to sell a property, and as such will not involve a housing chain.[1]

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Average Member

1213 Posts

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Posted - 12/22/2010 :  9:40:08 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote Report Abuse

Dated January 8, 2009. Almost 2 years ago. I'll admit "Economics" is not my strong suit. And will also admit I did not wade through the entire report. Can someone sort through that LONG 2 year old report and tell me what it means in regards to the coming year? Is there something more current?
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Junior Member

383 Posts

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Posted - 12/23/2010 :  12:08:25 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote Report Abuse

tell me what it means in regards to the coming year?

It means stock up on rice & beans. Grab some road salt while your at it.....

If you cant stand the heat, don't light the match
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Too Many Hobbies
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Posted - 12/23/2010 :  06:32:11 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote Report Abuse

It means nothing, it far too out of date.
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Average Member

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Posted - 12/23/2010 :  08:46:23 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote Report Abuse

[i]Originally posted by Too Many Hobbies[/i]
[br]It means nothing, it far too out of date.

Exactly my point
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John Beagle
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Posted - 12/23/2010 :  08:52:11 AM  Show Profile  Visit John Beagle's Homepage  Reply with Quote Report Abuse

It means allot. It was right, the economy tanked. Can't wait till the 2011 report.

[i]Originally posted by Too Many Hobbies[/i]
[br]It means nothing, it far too out of date.

"I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody" #BillCosby
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Les Lofton
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Posted - 12/23/2010 :  09:52:04 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote Report Abuse

David Rosenberg is now with Gluskin, Sheff in Toronto.

Some of his views for 2011 are here:


It's almost worth the Great Depression, to learn how little our big men know.
-Will Rogers
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6325 Posts

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Posted - 12/23/2010 :  1:42:47 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote Report Abuse

[i]Originally posted by John Beagle[/i]
[br]It means allot. It was right, the economy tanked. Can't wait till the 2011 report.

[i]Originally posted by Too Many Hobbies[/i]
[br]It means nothing, it far too out of date.

I picked all my NFL picks correct for the previous 3 weeks!

Want to pay me for my picks this weekend?

past success has very little bearing on future success when making predictions like this.

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Les Lofton
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Posted - 12/24/2010 :  1:35:35 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote Report Abuse

New article posted today by David Rosenberg:


It's almost worth the Great Depression, to learn how little our big men know.
-Will Rogers
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Senior Member

5167 Posts

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Posted - 12/24/2010 :  1:55:36 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote Report Abuse

[i]Originally posted by John Beagle[/i]
[br]It means allot. It was right, the economy tanked. Can't wait till the 2011 report.

[i]Originally posted by Too Many Hobbies[/i]
[br]It means nothing, it far too out of date.

So was Glenn Beck way before this guy, but we see how highly he is respected by some.

The market is a peculiar animal, peddling company papers called stocks being sold by people completely convinced that the paper is and will continue to loose value, being purchased by someone whom believes the exact opposite. There is never a shortage of supposedly educated people in any economic climate on both sides of the spectrum spinning whichever story you choose to believe.

Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.
-- Martin Luther King Jr.
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