Friday, September 11, 2009

The Cash From Clunk-Heads Program

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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The U.S. Cash for Clunkers program seems to be working quite well in reviving the economy - not the U.S. economy, but the Japanese economy. The U.S. government program that uses taxpayer money to let people who foolishly bought gas-guzzling cars trade them in for newer energy efficient models is just another reward the losers, from the losers Credit Crisis program. Yesterday's trade deficit figures tell the story. The July deficit widened by a whopping 16.3% in one month. The reason for this huge increase? Auto and auto part imports increased by 21.5%.

A widening trade deficit is negative for GDP. Yesterday's figures knock down one of the three pillars of economic recovery that mainstream economists have cited for their prediction that the U.S. recession is over (almost 100% agree that the economy is recovering). Actually, they specifically said exports were increasing, which indeed was the case in yesterday's report (thanks to highly volatile civilian aircraft shipments). Unfortunately, imports increased much more. Even though this subtracts from GDP, the press managed to put a positive spin on it. One well known economist stated "This was a positive report in that it provides further evidence that both the U.S. and foreign economies are coming back." Something that makes GDP decline is good news for the U.S. economy? Since when? There is obviously no absurdity that the mainstream media won't publish.

Of course the stock market went up on this 'good' news. Cash for Clunkers is indeed reviving manufacturing activity within the U.S (manufacturing is only 20% of the commercial economy versus 80% for services). You can see the figures have improved the most in industries related to automobiles. What one hand giveth, the other is taking away however (as seems typical of Obama administration initiatives). Toyota and Honda have been the two biggest beneficiaries of the program. Once the program stops though, you can expect manufacturing to decline again until the U.S. government comes up with another stimulus program (and another ... and another). The third pillar of the economic recovery, rising homes sales and prices, is just not believable. Foreclosures keep rising, housing inventory keeps rising, consumer credit and income keep falling, yet people are rushing to buy homes and paying more for them? It's only likely in the fantasy land known as manipulated statistics.

The U.S. is not the only country engaging in economic stimulus, it's a global phenomenon (the British also have something they call a 'Car Scrappage Scheme' by the way - at least they used the word scheme so people know what is actually going on). The Chinese market had a big rally last night after China said industrial output, investment, loans and retail sales remained strong in August, "supported by colossal stimulus measures" (a quote from one of the news services). The world's economies seem to be following the Japanese model. In the last two decades, Japan tried to repeatedly revive its economy through stimulus programs. In some cases, quarterly GDP growth exceeded 10% on an annual basis (an enormous number). However, every time the stimulus was removed, the economy sooner or later sank back into recession. There is one major difference however. Japan entered its stimulus period in a strong financial condition, whereas the U.S. and Britain were extremely overextended at the beginning of the Credit Crisis. Our stimulus plans will have to be paid for by printing money.

NEXT: Gold Closes at Record High

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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