Monday, August 17, 2009

Japan Climbs Out of Recession...Again

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. In addition to the term helicopter economics, we have also coined the term, helicopternomics, to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government and to update the old-fashioned term wheelbarrow economics.

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Japan's second quarter GDP figures were released last night and indicated the economy grew by 3.6% on an annual basis. This was after a 14.2% decline in the first quarter. What caused the turnaround? 'Government stimulus measures' as usual were cited and a big increase in export growth. Internal demand remains incredibly weak. Japan joins Germany and France, which also climbed out of recession thanks to government stimulus measures. The United States, the king of government stimulus measures, is predicted to join them in the third quarter.

This is not the first time Japan has 'recovered' from or avoided recession thanks to government stimulus measures. This also happened in 1993, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2004 and now after the 2008/2009 recession. Japan is very good at recovering from recession. The only problem is that it is even better at falling into recession. Insolvency of the banking system - the current problem in the U.S. is almost identical - is what has caused the two-decade economic nightmare. Residential real estate in Tokyo lost 90% of its value from the bubble top. Top A level commercial properties declined 99%. So far the stock market had a 18 year sell-off there after bottoming last October (assuming it doesn't go lower again). The Nikkei fell 3.1% last night. Hong Kong was down 3.6% and Shanghai down 5.8%. Apparently the good news wasn't good enough.

Problems in the market began last Friday, when U.S. Consumer Confidence suddenly dropped. Economists had predicted it would be going up. Imagine, consumers are becoming less confident even though unemployment is likely to be a major problem for at least another year (by economists own admission) and their income is likely to continue to fall. Who could have predicted that not having a job or money would make consumers less confident? Certainly not U.S. economists. And how are consumers going to increase their spending under such circumstances? Obviously they aren't going to. So much for the 72% of the U.S. GDP (based on 2008) that consumer spending is responsible for getting better. Nevertheless, I have little doubt that U.S. GDP will be positive next quarter - although people who insist on dealing with reality will have trouble understanding how this occurred.

The stock market was buoyed when second quarter U.S. GDP was released a couple of weeks ago. It was a major surprise that the decline was only 1.0%. What caused this better performance? Nothing involved with consumer spending or industrial production (although there were claims that the auto industry was doing better - try not to laugh). Government stimulus measures were the key. Federal government expenditures were up 10.9% in the quarter and state expenditures were up 2.4%. How state expenditures were up when at least 20 states are facing major budgetary problems is not clear. Like Japan though, as long as the U.S. keeps up the government stimulus measures, it will be good at climbing out of recession. It will probably be able to do so over and over and over again in the next decade or two.

NEXT: Monday's Ugly Market Action

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer,New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

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