Monday, August 8, 2011

Hussman Weekly Market Comment: Recession Warning, and the Proper Policy Response

As of Friday, the S&P 500 was below its level of early November 2010, when the Federal Reserve initiated its second round of quantitative easing. Aside from a brief bump in demand that kicked the recession can down the road a bit, the U.S. economy is not measurably better off. Meanwhile, countless individuals in developing countries have been injured by predictable commodity hoarding and global price instability. The Federal Reserve has leveraged its balance sheet by over 55-to-1. As policy makers look to address the abrupt deterioration in U.S. and global economic prospects, we should ask ourselves: Do we really long for more of the Fed's recklessness?

I began drafting this update in a fairly measured way, but on further reflection, I think it is time to be blunt. The economic evidence now suggests that the U.S. and the global economy are again entering recession. Technically, this is not a "double dip." The National Bureau of Economic Research, which officially dates the beginning and end of U.S. recessions, was very clear about this last year - noting that it would view any future economic downturn as a new recession, not as a continuation of the one that ended in June 2009.

If there is one crucial point that should not be missed, it is this: the fundamental source of our economic challenges, from joblessness, to unresolved housing strains, to sovereign debt crises, is that our policy makers have repeatedly opted for fiscal band-aids and monetary distortions instead of addressing the core problem head-on. That core problem is simple: the careless encouragement of asset bubbles, and the refusal to restructure bad debt.