My AEI colleague, the shrewd and usually prescient economist John Makin, takes aim at the happy talk that the economy is turning around ("green shoots" of spring, says Ben Bernanke) in his monthly Economic Outlook. There are some sobering indicators that we have a lot of rough weather still to get through. Samples:
During the forty years from 1967 to 2007, there were only four individual quarters during which current dollar retail receipts fell at more than a 5 percent annualized rate. Each of these episodes was isolated--five to ten years apart. Through the first quarter of 2009, there have been three consecutive quarters when retail receipts fell at more than a 5 percent annual rate, and the April retail sales data suggest that we are on track for a fourth consecutive quarter of extraordinarily weak retail spending. This makes year-on-year changes in retail spending by far the worst on record. . .
During the first quarter of 2009, year-over-year nominal GDP growth, a measure of the total dollar value of U.S. output, turned negative for the first time since 1957. Without a substantial recovery in growth during the second half of the year, year-over-year nominal GDP growth will remain negative, at least for the next several quarters. In that environment, a realistic estimate for earnings of the S&P 500 companies (based on conventional methods employed by equity analysts) would be about $40 a share, which, at a normal fifteen to seventeen index-earnings multiple, would produce an S&P 500 Index range of 600 to 680, as opposed to the mid-May figure of about 900. . . U.S. capacity utilization dropped to 69.1 percent in April--the lowest reading in the fifty-year history of the series.
Batten down the hatches, folks. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.