The US economy is showing numerous preliminary signs that a slowdown is dawning. As well,
the various leading eco. indicators have been losing positive momentum since early this year
and this steady trend signals a slowdown of growth ahead. My analysis finds nothing serious
yet and I conclude it is premature to talk about a recession. But there maybe a pronounced
downturn in the expansion ahead and critical as always will be inventory management by all
levels of business. The supply management software is there to provide comprehensive and
timely inventory data right down to mom/pop businesses. What I watch in the short run is
inventory to sales data and any signs there may be inventory speculation underway. With
inflation still modest and with short rates even for prime borrowers now running at least 2%,
there is sufficient reason avoid speculation and manage working capital carefully. 'Wolf at the
door' recession scenarios do not seem appropriate at this time.
However, a pronounced economic slowdown will have an adverse impact on profit estimates
and I think the market has already started the process of discounting more modest growth in
business profits as the US appears set to join a global slowdown.
Whether the recent stock market correction is sufficient to allay most fears is hard to say, but
it is tougher to expect strong and sustainable price rallies when market players are concerned
the longer term direction of profits growth momentum may be more sluggish than recently
The Fed is coming under increasing and substantial pressure to slow or even halt its policy of
tightening credit via hikes in short rates. If the Fed succumbs to the pressure, it may trigger a
'relief' up leg in stocks, but such an event will only serve to complicate the Fed's job later on
when a final stage economic expansion may develop. You also need to keep in mind that the
Fed still seems intent on shrinking financial liquidity via downsizing its balance sheet.
So far, the possible deflationary impact on p/e ratios from this era of liquidity tightening has
been displaced by large fiscal stimulus and deficit budget financing. but without additional fiscal
loosening measures, the quantitative tightening under way will re-assert itself with probable
negative effects for the various forms of risk capital to occur down the road.
A heavy duty trade war with China will be broadly economically destructive. Let us hope that
the principals can finesse the situation, but I suggest you keep in mind that neither Xi or The
Donald are the sharpest knives in the drawer by any stretch.
- Peter Richardson
- Retired chief investment officer and former NYSE firm partner with 50 plus years experience in field as analyst / economist, portfolio manager / trader, and CIO who has superb track record with multi $billion equities and fixed income portfolios. Advanced degrees, CFA. Having done much professional writing as a young guy, I now have a cryptic style. 40 years down on and around The Street confirms: CAVEAT EMPTOR IN SPADES !!!