Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fed's Dudley on the Economy

by Bill McBride on 5/22/2010 09:01:00 AM

From NY Fed President William Dudley's commencement speech at New College of Florida:

[T]he recovery is not likely to be as robust as we would like for several reasons.

First, households are still in the process of deleveraging. The housing boom created paper wealth that households borrowed against. This pushed the consumption share of nominal gross domestic product to a record high of about 70 percent. When the boom turned into a bust, those paper gains evaporated. In fact, many households now find that the value of their homes is less than the amount of their mortgage debt. This has created a difficult time for many families and has caused the hangover to last longer.

Second, the banking system is still under significant stress. This is particularly the case for small- and medium-sized banks that have significant exposure to commercial real estate loans. This stress means that banks have been slow to ease credit standards as the economy has moved from recession to recovery.

Third, some of the sources that have supported the nascent recovery are temporary. The big swing from inventory liquidation during the recession back to accumulation will soon end as inventory levels come back into better balance with sales. And fiscal stimulus from the federal government is subsiding and will soon reverse.
In this environment, finding a job will be tough, but when you hit the pavement remember that the job market is improving. Don't get discouraged.
A few comments:

First, the household "deleveraging" seemed to start last year, but consumers were back to spending more than they earned in Q1. Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased to over 71% of GDP in Q1 - higher than the 70% during the boom that Dudley mentioned. Some of this increase in PCE was due to government transfer payments (all of the increase in income in Q1 came from government transfer payments). I still think the personal saving rate will rise over the next year or two - and that will keep growth in PCE below the growth in income.

Second, I think the transitory inventory boost is about over. There were hints of this in the manufacturing surveys last week from the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and New York - and also in the Census Bureau's Manufacturing and Trade inventories report for March. Also, as Dudley notes, the boost from the stimulus "is subsiding and will soon reverse" (the peak stimulus spending is right now - in Q2 2010).

These are significant headwinds, and I think growth will slow in the 2nd half of 2010.