(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘recession

“Things gained through unjust fraud are never secure”*…

Mischief is cyclical—it is bred in good times and uncovered in bad times…

The bad news just keeps coming. Ten months after America’s stock market peaked, its big technology companies have suffered another rout. Hopes that the Federal Reserve might change course have been dashed; interest rates are set to rise by more than previously thought. The bond market is screaming recession. Could things get any worse? The answer is yes. Stock market booms of the sort that crested in January tend to engender fraud. Bad times like those that lie ahead reveal it.

“There is an inverse relationship between interest rates and dishonesty,” says Carson Block, a short-seller. Quite so. A decade of ultra-low borrowing costs has encouraged companies to load up on cheap debt. And debt can hide a lot of misdeeds. They are uncovered when credit dries up. The global financial crisis of 2007-09 exposed fraud and negligence in mortgage lending. The stockmarket bust of the early 2000s unmasked the deceptions of the dotcom bonanza and the book-cooking at Enron, Worldcom and Global Crossing. Those with longer memories in Britain will recall the Polly Peck and Maxwell scandals at the end of the go-go 1980s.

The next downturn seems likely to uncover a similar wave of corporate fraud…

The archetypal sin revealed by recession is accounting fraud. The big scandals play out like tragic dramas: when the plot twist arrives, it seems both surprising and inevitable. No simple formula exists to sort the number-fiddlers from the rest. But the field can be narrowed by searching within the “fraud triangle” of financial pressure, opportunity and rationalization…

As Warren Buffett has noted, “you don’t find out who’s been swimming naked until the tide goes out.” Read on for more from @TheEconomist, “A sleuth’s guide to the coming wave of corporate fraud” (a gift article: no paywall).

* Sophocles

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As we contemplate criminality, we might recall that it was on this date in 1997 that MCI and Worldcom announced what was then the largest merger in history, valued at $37 Billion, creating the second largest telecom company in the U.S. (after ATT).

Worldcom, the acquirer, completed the deal in 1998, then continued to grow via acquisition. MCI Worldcom (as then it was) filed for bankruptcy in 2002 (the Dot Com Bust) after an accounting scandal (as referenced above), in which several executives, including CEO Bernard Ebbers, were convicted of a scheme to inflate the company’s assets… which were ultimately acquired by Verizon.

Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 10, 2022 at 1:00 am

“The malady of commercial crisis is not, in essence, a matter of the purse but of the mind”*…

Still, those crises do take tangible form…

Q3 is a traditional peak season in the world of shipping, but not this year. Global inflation, weakened consumer demand and excess cargo carrying capacity are pushing the market down…

With a gloomy economic outlook and vague alarms from central banks, it seems recession could be just around the corner.

Are there any indications from the shipping market when global recession is on its way? This is a question not only of interest to the commercial and technical players in the maritime industry, but also to financiers and policy makers.

The last recession triggered by economic factors was the Great Recession from December 2007 to June 2009. Goods loaded worldwide for seaborne trade fell by nearly five percent in 2009 compared to 2008, from about 8.23 billion tons to 7.82, according to UNCTAD’s Handbook of Statistics 2021.

Is a depressed shipping market a contributor to global recession, or does global recession lead the shipping market down? It is a chicken and egg question. But can the Great Recession’s impact to shipping market provide some useful reference to the current situation? Shipping indexes may shed some light.

How is the shipping market now? In May 2022, bulker earnings started to drop. Tankers were at a short break in an upward rise. Container freight rates were flat and just about to begin sliding. As of September 2022, only tankers’ earnings are still climbing.

The bulk shipping market’s underperformance will probably continue and will not turn before Christmas, unless there are significant changes – for example, if an easing of COVID restrictions in China pushes up its industrial demand (particularly for iron ore). Demand for oil and gas from the West will help send tanker rates continue soaring. Container shipping is expected to decline in the short term.

During the past months, a black cloud has appeared on the global shipping market’s horizon. The downward trend of shipping indexes brings a sense of foreboding. As to the question, “is a global recession imminent?” Most likely, say signals from these two shipping indexes…

Do Shipping Indexes Hint at Global Recession?,” from @Mar_Ex. (TotH to friend PH.)

See also: “China lockdowns accelerate supply chain diversion and box shipping review,” and more generally, “An often-overlooked economic measure is signaling serious trouble ahead” and “Three Harbingers Point to a U.S. Recession.”

* John Stuart Mill

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As we batten the hatches, we might we might spare a thought for Henry George; he died on this date in 1897.  A writer, politician and political economist, George is best remembered for Progress and Poverty, published in 1879, which treats inequality and the cyclic nature of industrialized economies, and proposes the use of a land value tax (AKA a “single tax” on real estate) as a remedy– an economic philosophy known as Georgism, the main tenet of which is that, while individuals should own what they create, everything found in nature, most importantly the value of land, belongs equally to all mankind.

George’s ideas were widely-discussed in his time and into the early 20th century, and admired by thinkers like Alfred Russel Wallace, Jose Marti, and William Jennings Bryan; Franklin D. Roosevelt sang his praises, as did George Bernard Shaw.  But with the rise of neoclassical economics, George’s star began to recede.  Still, more modern thinkers like Albert Einstein and martin Luther King were fans.

In a sequence that mimicked George’s arc of influence, it was George’s work that inspired Elizabeth Magie to create The Landlord’s Game in 1904 to demonstrate his theories; ironically, it was Magie’s board game that became in the 1930s (as recently noted here and here) the basis for Monopoly.

In 1977, Joseph Stiglitz showed that under certain conditions, spending by the government on public goods will increase aggregate land rents/returns by the same amount. Stiglitz’s findings were dubbed “the Henry George Theorem,” as they illustrate a situation in which Henry George’s “single tax” is not only efficient, it is the only tax necessary to finance public expenditures.

Henry George

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“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose your own”*…

The “R word,” unpacked…

It’s being whispered and murmured about. The president is facing questions about it. Business leaders and investors are already bracing for it. The specter of recession is once again rearing its monstrous head.

It’s feasible that the economy could chug along without any bumps or crashes. But boom-and-bust cycles remain a seemingly inescapable feature of capitalist economies. Some countries have done well avoiding busts. Starting in 1991, Australia had a run of almost 29 years without a recession, the longest stretch of economic growth of any nation in modern history. That ended in 2020, when the pandemic led to a big contraction — and Australia (briefly) succumbed to the beast.

While Australia had zero recessions between 1991 and 2020, the United States had two, a mild one in 2001, amid the dotcom crash and the 9/11 terrorist attacks; and a catastrophic one known as the Great Recession, between 2007 and 2009. Since 1854, the first year for which we have official economic data, the United States has experienced 35 recessions.

The National Bureau of Economic Research’s Business Cycle Dating Committee is the official body that keeps track of recessions in the U.S. The committee has traditionally defined recessions as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and that lasts more than a few months.”…

Recessions– what they are, what they aren’t, and how they happen: “Fear The Vibe Shift: Are We Entering A Recession?,” from Greg Rosalsky (@elliswonk) at Planet Money (@planetmoney).

And for a dive into the vibe in question, see Derek Thompson‘s (@DKThomp) examination of why many Americans believe that they’re personally doing well, even as they feel that the country and the economy are going to hell: “Everything Is Terrible, but I’m Fine.”

See also: “There are 2 very different kinds of recessions—and the U.S. is likely headed for something totally different than 2008” in @FortuneMagazine (source of the image above), and “A recession in America by 2024 looks likely– It should be mild—but fear its consequences” in @TheEconomist.

* Harry S. Truman

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As we batten the hatches, we might send carefully-considered birthday greetings to Robert Aumann; he was born on this date in 1930. An economist and mathematician, he is best known for his contributions to game theory, especially for his work on repeated games (situations in which players encounter the same situation over and over again). He developed the concept of correlated equilibrium in game theory, which is a type of equilibrium in non-cooperative games (like most of those in our economy), a more flexible version than the classical Nash equilibrium.

For these and related contributions to game theory, he shared the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics.

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“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics”*…

In a stark sign of the economic inequality that has marked the pandemic recession and recovery, Americans as a whole are now earning the same amount in wages and salaries that they did before the virus struck — even with nearly 9 million fewer people working. 

The turnaround in total wages underscores how disproportionately America’s job losses have afflicted workers in lower-income occupations rather than in higher-paying industries, where employees have actually gained jobs as well as income since early last year.

In February 2020, Americans earned $9.66 trillion in wages and salaries, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, according to the Commerce Department data. By April, after the virus had flattened the U.S. economy, that figure had shrunk by 10%. It then gradually recovered before reaching $9.67 trillion in December, the latest period for which data is available. 

Those dollar figures include only wages and salaries that people earned from jobs. They don’t include money that tens of millions of Americans have received from unemployment benefits or the Social Security and other aid that goes to many other households. The figures also don’t include investment income… 

The figures document that the vanished earnings from 8.9 million Americans who have lost jobs to the pandemic remain less than the combined salaries of new hires and the pay raises that the 150 million Americans who have kept their jobs have received.

The job cuts resulting from the pandemic recession have fallen heavily on lower-income workers across the service sector— from restaurants and hotels to retail stores and entertainment venues. By contrast, tens of millions of higher-income Americans, especially those able to work from home, have managed to keep or acquire jobs and continue to receive pay increases.

“We’ve never seen anything like that before,” said Richard Deitz, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, referring to the concentration of job losses. “It’s a totally different kind of downturn than we’ve experienced in modern times.”

The figures also underscore the unusually accelerated nature of this recession. As a whole, both the job losses that struck early last spring and the initial rebound in hiring that followed have happened much faster than they did in previous recessions and recoveries. After the Great Recession, for example, it took nearly 2 1/2 years for wages and salaries to regain their pre-recession levels…

One reason why the job losses have had relatively little impact on the nation’s total pay is that so many of the affected employees worked part time. The average work week in the industry that includes hotels, restaurants and bars is just below 26 hours. That’s the shortest such figure among 13 major industries tracked by the government. The next shortest is retail, at about 31 hours. The average for all industries is nearly 35 hours. 

The recovery in wages and salaries helps explain why some states haven’t suffered as sharp a drop in tax revenue as many had feared. That is especially true for states that rely on progressive taxes that fall more heavily on the rich. California, for example, said last month that it has a $15 billion budget surplus. Yet many cities are still struggling, and local transit agencies, such as New York City’s subway, have been hammered by the pandemic.

The wage and salary data also helps explain the steady gains in the stock market, which have been led by high-tech companies whose products are being heavily purchased and used by higher-income Americans, such as Apple iPads, Peloton bikes, or Amazon’s online shopping.

This week, the New York Fed released research that underscored how focused the job losses have been. For people making less than $30,000 a year, employment has fallen 14% as of December. For those earning more than $85,000, it has actually risen slightly. For those in-between, employment has fallen 4%… 

Some companies have cut wages in this recession, but on the whole the many millions of Americans fortunate enough to keep their jobs have generally received pay raises at largely pre-recession rates. Some of those income gains likely reflect cost-of-living raises; the Commerce Department’s wage and salary data isn’t adjusted for inflation…

Truman Bewley, a retired Yale University economist who wrote a book about the concept of sticky wages, said that most companies have a key core of workers they rely on through hard times and are reluctant to cut pay for them. 

And there’s another reason, Bewley said, why many companies cut jobs instead of pay. While researching his book, he said a factory manager told him why his company did so: “It gets the misery out the door.”  

More at: “Sign of inequality: US salaries recover even as jobs haven’t.”

See also “More Than 33 Million Americans Have Filed for Unemployment During Coronavirus Pandemic.” source of the image above.

And to compare the U.S. to other countries, try this nifty interactive visualization.

* Plutarch

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As we examine equity, we might send foundational birthday greetings to Pierre le Pesant, sieur de Boisguilbert; he was born on this date in 1646. A French lawmaker and a Jansenist, he is best remembered as one of the inventors of the notion of an economic market– he championed free trade in opposition to Colbert‘s mercantilist views (which generated government revenues through duties and tariffs).

But he is also noteworthy as the champion of a single tax on each citizen (in lieu of all tariffs, customs, and other trade-related fees) that in some ways presaged Henry George‘s proposals.

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Never going to happen…

One might express the exceedingly low probability that one might agree (that, say, Adam Sandler is the artistic and comedic rival of Buster Keaton) in a variety of ways.  Here in the U.S., it might be “when pigs fly” or “when Hell freezes over”.  Now, thanks to the good folks at Nautilus, one can answer with the appropriately idiomatic expression of improbability all over the world.  Just click the image above…

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As we substitute hyperbole for hyperventilation, we might recall that it was on this date in 2008 that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, setting off the worst financial crisis since the nineteen-thirties, a seven-hundred-billion-dollar bank bailout, and a painful recession.  On this dark anniversary, John Cassidy asks, “What Has Changed Since Lehman Failed?”  James Kwak answers, “5 Years Later, We’ve Learned Nothing From The Financial Crisis.  And for a really deep dive, leap in here.

Then-Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson

Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 15, 2013 at 1:01 am

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