The Recovery will be K-shaped: “Bifurcated” not “V-Shaped”

There will be no V-, U-, W-, or L-shaped recovery. The recovery will be K-shaped. An initial drop straight down, followed by a bifurcation of the ascending “haves” gaining more wealth at the cost of the descending “have nots” losing their wealth. You have a short window of opportunity to choose which side of the bifurcation that you want to take.
bonsai treehouse
If you understand “economic hitmen“, you’ll understand that people, companies and even countries are allowed to get over leveraged for a reason. There is no intention to save those over leveraged. The intent is to take assets they want – legally.
Whenever a company brings in an “optimization” company, you better start sprucing up that resume. I’ve seen it happen so many times. Prepare for the pinks, don’t ever be surprised by it.
Saw this same thing with Doctors offices in my area. These management services, rolled into town. They promised an increase in profits. The docs jumped in with both feet. Long time employees jumped ship because part of the restructuring double their workload. New computer systems did not delivery efficiency. Retraining new employees ended up being costly. The family atmosphere of the old practice disappeared and it quickly became a factory environment. Patients started going to other providers for better care. Some of the practices split from their partnerships due to bad blood caused by the ill treatment of long time devoted employees. End result was loss of profits and weakening relationships to the point that the local monster sized hospitals were able to come in a buyout those practices for a song. Here is the thing. All these docs were warned not to do this. Only a couple practices heeded the advice. They survived the other practices didn’t.
The writing appears to be on the wall. The Fed reports, NBER reports, and others are pretty damning. Kashkari has also mentioned he is concerned about banks being unable to absorb the coming wave of defaults he expects are very possible. Also now people are realizing the markets being propped up are creating a bubble if not keeping a bubble going and growing. Save your money people and pay off your debts. Very tough road ahead of us. It’s so unfortunate that our economy is failing so hard and people don’t seem to grasp the harsh reality that we are facing.
Housing: 20 years ago you could buy an average house 2x your average annual salary (in your location)…. now its 5x+. Think about it….
The one thing I learned in business: Any rumor about how bad a business youre working at is doing is always 100% true Any assurance your manager gives you about how youre bad business is gonna turn around is always 100% a lie
That’s why people like Warren Buffet is sitting on the sidelines and waiting.

The general election scenario that Democrats are dreading

“We are about to see the best economic data we’ve seen in the history of this country,” says a top former economic adviser to Obama.

In early April, Jason Furman, a top economist in the Obama administration and now a professor at Harvard, was speaking via Zoom to a large bipartisan group of top officials from both parties. The economy had just been shut down, unemployment was spiking and some policymakers were predicting an era worse than the Great Depression. The economic carnage seemed likely to doom President Donald Trump’s chances at reelection.

Furman, tapped to give the opening presentation, looked into his screen of poorly lit boxes of frightened wonks and made a startling claim.

“We are about to see the best economic data we’ve seen in the history of this country,” he said.

The former Cabinet secretaries and Federal Reserve chairs in the Zoom boxes were confused, though some of the Republicans may have been newly relieved and some of the Democrats suddenly concerned.

“Everyone looked puzzled and thought I had misspoken,” Furman said in an interview. Instead of forecasting a prolonged Depression-level economic catastrophe, Furman laid out a detailed case for why the months preceding the November election could offer Trump the chance to brag — truthfully — about the most explosive monthly employment numbers and gross domestic product growth ever.

Since the Zoom call, Furman has been making the same case to anyone who will listen, especially the close-knit network of Democratic wonks who have traversed the Clinton and Obama administrations together, including top members of the Biden campaign.

Furman’s counterintuitive pitch has caused some Democrats, especially Obama alumni, around Washington to panic. “This is my big worry,” said a former Obama White House official who is still close to the former president. Asked about the level of concern among top party officials, he said, “It’s high — high, high, high, high.”

And top policy officials on the Biden campaign are preparing for a fall economic debate that might look very different than the one predicted at the start of the pandemic in March. “They are very much aware of this,” said an informal adviser.

Furman’s case begins with the premise that the 2020 pandemic-triggered economic collapse is categorically different than the Great Depression or the Great Recession, which both had slow, grinding recoveries.

Instead, he believes, the way to think about the current economic drop-off, at least in the first two phases, is more like what happens to a thriving economy during and after a natural disaster: a quick and steep decline in economic activity followed by a quick and steep rebound.

The Covid-19 recession started with a sudden shuttering of many businesses, a nationwide decline in consumption and massive increase in unemployment. But starting around April 15, when economic reopening started to spread but the overall numbers still looked grim, Furman noticed some data that pointed to the kind of recovery that economists often see after a hurricane or industrywide catastrophe like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Consumption and hiring started to tick up “in gross terms, not in net terms,” Furman said, describing the phenomenon as a “partial rebound.” The bounce back “can be very very fast, because people go back to their original job, they get called back from furlough, you put the lights back on in your business. Given how many people were furloughed and how many businesses were closed you can get a big jump out of that. It will look like a V.”

Furman’s argument is not that different from the one made by White House economic advisers and Trump, who have predicted an explosive third quarter, and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who said in late April that “the hope is that by July the country’s really rocking again.” White House officials were thrilled to hear that some of their views have been endorsed by prominent Democrats.

“I totally agree,” Larry Kudlow, head of the White House National Economic Council, replied in a text message when asked about Furman’s analysis. “Q3 may be the single best GDP quarter since regular data. 2nd half super big growth, transitioning to 4% or more in 2021.” He called Furman, whom he said he knows well, “usually a straight shooter. Hats off to him.”

“I have been saying that on TV as well,” said Kevin Hassett, a top Trump economic adviser, who pointed to a Congressional Budget Office analysis predicting a 21.5 percent annualized growth rate in the third quarter. “If CBO is correct we will see the strongest quarter in history after the weakest in Q2.”

Peter Navarro, a Trump trade and manufacturing adviser who’s a Harvard-educated economist, called the high unemployment America is currently facing “manufactured unemployment, which is to say that Americans are out of work not because of any underlying economic weaknesses but to save American lives. It is this observation that gives us the best chance and hope for a relatively rapid recovery as the economy reopens.”

(Asked about his new fans in the White House, Furman responded, “They get the rebound part, but they don’t get the partial part.”)

A rebound won’t mean that Trump has solved many underlying problems. Since the crisis started, many employers have gone bankrupt. Others have used the pandemic to downsize. Consumption and travel will likely remain lower. Millions of people in industries like hospitality and tourism will need to find new jobs in new industries.

The scenario would be a major long-term problem for any president. But before that reality sets in, Trump could be poised to benefit from the dramatic numbers produced during the partial rebound phase that is likely to coincide with the four months before November.

That realization has many Democrats spooked.

“In absolute terms, the economy will look historically terrible come November,” said Kenneth Baer, a Democratic strategist who worked in a senior role at the Office of Management and Budget under Obama. “But relative to the depths of April, it will be on an upswing — 12 percent unemployment, for example, is better than 20, but historically terrible. On Election Day, we Democrats need voters to ask themselves, ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago?’ Republicans need voters to ask themselves, ‘Are you better off than you were four months ago?’”

One progressive Democratic operative pointed out that recent polling, taken during the nadir of the crisis, shows Joe Biden is struggling to best Trump on who is more trusted to handle the economy. “Trump beats Biden on the economy even right now!” he said. “This is going to be extremely difficult no matter what. It’s existential that we figure it out. In any of these economic scenarios Democrats are going to have to win the argument that our public health and economy are much worse off because of Donald Trump’s failure of leadership.”

The former Obama White House official said, “Even today when we are at over 20 million unemployed Trump gets high marks on the economy, so I can’t imagine what it looks like when things go in the other direction. I don’t think this is a challenge for the Biden campaign. This is the challenge for the Biden campaign. If they can’t figure this out they should all just go home.”

The Biden campaign seems to recognize the challenge. “The way that Biden talks about the economy is not just tied to the Covid crisis, it’s also about the things that Donald Trump has done to undermine working people since the day he took office,” said Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager. “But secondly, it’s also highly likely that under any economic circumstances in the fall, Trump is likely going to be the first modern president to preside over net job loss.”

Between now and Election Day, there will be five monthly jobs reports, which are released on the first Friday of every month. The June report, covering May, is likely to show another increase in unemployment. But after that, Furman predicts, if reopening continues apace, the next four reports could be blockbusters. “You could easily have 1 to 2 million jobs created a month in those four reports before November,” he said.

He added, “And then toward the end of October, we will get GDP growth for the third quarter, at an annualized rate, and it could be double-digit positive economic growth. So these will be the best jobs and growth numbers ever.

Furman noted that there is one major obvious caveat: “If there’s a second wave of the virus and a really serious set of lockdowns, I wouldn’t expect to see this. But I think the most likely case is the one I just laid out.”

When Obama ran for reelection in 2012, during the recovery from the Great Recession, he was able to point out that the unemployment rate was dropping about 1 point every year. But in a V-shaped recovery it would be much faster. “The Trump argument will be he’s producing the fastest job growth and fastest economic growth in history. If he has any ability to do nuance he would say, ‘We are not there yet, reelect me to finish the job,’” Furman said. “The Biden argument will be the unemployment rate is still 12 percent and even with those millions of jobs we are still down 15 million jobs and the only way for this to be fixed is new economic policies.”

Austan Goolsbee, a predecessor to Furman as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Obama White House, said the recovery would be more like a reverse check mark, rather than a V, and that Biden and Democrats would need to point out that the explosive numbers predicted for the late summer and fall will not erase all of the damage.

“I view it as Trump left the door open and five rats came into the kitchen and you’re going to brag, ‘Look I got two of the rats out?’” Goolsbee said. “There’s a high risk you look completely out of touch if you still have double-digit unemployment rates.”

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who is close to Biden, said he’s been studying numerous economic forecasts and isn’t convinced a V-shaped rebound is certain. “It seems pretty unlikely to me that we’re going to have a really robust recovery in the next few months,” he said. “Of course, we all hope there will be. Frankly, no matter what the recovery looks like, I expect President Trump to either take credit for things he had nothing to do with or to avoid blame for things he helped cause.”

Furman is an economist, but he had some strategic advice for the Biden campaign. “Don’t make predictions that could be falsified. There are enough terrible things to say you don’t need to make exaggerated predictions,” he said. “The argument that we are in another Great Depression will look like it was overstated. Trump can say, ‘Two million deaths didn’t happen, Great Depression didn’t happen, we are making a lot of progress.’”

Powell, Mnuchin Outline Contrasting Perils Facing Economy

Trump administration is counting on sharp bounceback in commercial activity, but Fed officials are less confident

The nation’s top two economic policy leaders offered contrasting visions about the economic outlook, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin favoring a wait-and-see approach to more federal aid and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell suggesting more would be needed.

Their positions expressed Tuesday reflected differing views on the prospects for a swift economic rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Mnuchin, appearing alongside Mr. Powell at an online congressional hearing, reflected the Trump administration’s belief that the biggest danger to the economy is waiting too long to restart activity after two months in which millions of Americans have sheltered in their homes to slow the spread of infections.

“There is the risk of permanent damage” to keeping commercial activity closed down too long, Mr. Mnuchin told the Senate Banking Committee.

Mr. Mnuchin echoed comments by President Trump and other administration officials who are predicting a V-shaped recovery—a sharp downturn followed by a strong bounceback.

We’re going to have a really good third quarter. It’s already happening,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the Capitol later Tuesday after meeting with Senate Republicans. “You see what’s going on. We’re opening up.”

Mr. Powell, meanwhile, challenged the premise that there is a trade-off between economic growth and protecting the public’s health. Fear of coronavirus infection is the economy’s biggest hurdle, he said, and the recovery will be held back until Americans believe it’s safe to resume commercial activities involving person-to-person contact.

“The No. 1 thing, of course, is people believing that it’s safe to go back to work so they can go out,” said Mr. Powell. “That’s what it will take for people to regain confidence.”

For the third time in a week, Mr. Powell suggested additional spending by Washington could be needed to prevent long-term damage from high unemployment and waves of bankruptcies. “The scope and speed of this downturn are without modern precedent and are significantly worse than any recession since World War II,” he said.

The Fed and the Trump administration were frequently at odds last year over interest rate policy, with the president faulting Mr. Powell for not providing more stimulus during a period of steady economic growth.

Now, the tables are turning, with the Fed now calling for more stimulus and the administration more hesitant.

Mr. Powell and other senior central bank officials have indicated they don’t think a V-shaped recovery is likely. This has fueled their concern that the government’s initial relief measures may prove insufficient to nurse the economy through a shock with no modern parallel and with interest rates already near zero.

In a speech Tuesday, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said he expected the unemployment rate to peak near 20% this year and to stay above 10% through the end of the year. “This outlook is both sobering and a call to action,” he said. “Now is the time for both monetary and fiscal policy to act boldly to minimize the economic pain from the pandemic.”

Mr. Rosengren warned that simply allowing businesses to reopen without slowing the spread of the virus risked making the economy worse.

“If consumers are afraid to eat out, shop or travel, a relaxation in laws requiring business closures may do little to bring back customers and thus jobs,” said Mr. Rosengren. “It is vital that the design and timing of reductions in business restrictions not result in worse outcomes and higher unemployment over a longer period of time.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which released its updated economic forecast Tuesday, said it anticipates a “gradual and incomplete pattern of recovery” over the next year and a half. CBO expects the economy will grow faster in 2021 than it projected last month, but will still be 1.6% smaller than it was at the end of 2019, while the jobless rate remains above 9% through the end of next year.

“Despite the initial rebound in employment, health risks are expected to linger and some degree of social distancing is projected to remain in place into next year,” CBO said.

The Fed has slashed rates to near zero and bought more than $2 trillion in Treasury and mortgage securities to stabilize financial markets. It has promised to lend trillions of dollars more, backed by more than $200 billion in funds from the Treasury. Congress has appropriated nearly $2.9 trillion so far to support households, businesses, health-care providers and state and local governments, or around 14% of national economic output.

“I do think we need to take a step back and ask over time is it enough, and we need to be prepared to act further,” Mr. Powell said Tuesday.

Mr. Trump’s top advisers have laid out a more optimistic scenario they say justifies waiting to see how the economy fares before providing more aid to businesses, households and state and local governments. President Trump has said he wants to suspend the payroll tax and eliminate capital-gains taxes to spur more hiring and investment.

House Democrats narrowly approved a $3 trillion relief package last week with only one Republican voting in favor. The bill is unlikely to become law on its own, but individual pieces of it may survive. The measure included $1 trillion in funding for state and local governments and a second, larger round of payments from the IRS to households.

“We are not going to spend our way out of this,” White House economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow said in an interview last week. Animating the administration’s approach is the expectation of a V-shaped recovery, he indicated. “We believe it’s the best bet,” Mr. Kudlow said.

Another White House economic adviser, Kevin Hassett, told reporters Monday a fourth round of economic stimulus might be unnecessary. “I think it’s possible that we’ll see a strong enough economy that we don’t need a Phase Four,” he said.

Analysts say the approach carries risks. “They’re all assuming after Labor Day everything is fine. Hope is not a strategy,” said Stephen Myrow, a former Treasury official in the George W. Bush administration who is now managing partner of research firm Beacon Policy Advisers LLC.

Mr. Mnuchin signaled a shift Tuesday toward taking on more risk in federal lending programs designed to help businesses and governments bridge a loss in revenues. At issue is how the Treasury Department plans to invest $454 billion Congress provided in March to cover losses on emergency loan programs created by the Fed.

“Our intention is that we expect to take some losses on these facilities,” he said. “That is our base case scenario.”

This marked a shift from last month, when he told reporters the Treasury was looking at “a base case scenario that we recover our money.”

Some lawmakers and economists worried his comments last month reflected a too-timid approach. The Treasury’s appetite for taking on risk in Fed lending programs could shape how many businesses qualify for loans.

The issue has taken on urgency because of uncertainty over how long consumers will shun commercial activities that require human contact and because of partisan differences that could hold up further federal spending.

Very few of us expect the Treasury not to have to take losses,” Sen. Jerry Moran (R., Kan.) said at the hearing Tuesday. “There needs to be some risk-taking here.”

Mr. Powell said he expected all the Fed’s nine lending programs would be running by early June. The Treasury has committed $195 billion out of the $454 billion so far, and Mr. Mnuchin pledged Tuesday to allocate the rest of that money.