The economy has gone from bad to worse. On Friday the Commerce Department reported that GDP had slipped from 3.7% to 2.4% in one quarter. Now that depleted stockpiles have been rebuilt and fiscal stimulus is running out, activity will continue to sputter increasing the likelihood of a double dip recession. Consumer credit and spending have taken a sharp downturn and data released on Tuesday show that the personal savings rate has soared to 6.4%. Mushrooming savings indicate that household deleveraging is ongoing which will reduce spending and further exacerbate the second-half slowdown. The jobs situation is equally grim; 8 million jobs have been lost since the beginning of the recession, but policymakers on Capital Hill and at the Fed refuse to initiate government programs or provide funding that will put the country back to work. Long-term “structural” unemployment is here to stay.
The stock market has continued its highwire act due to corporate earnings reports that surprised to the upside. 75% of S&P companies beat analysts estimates which helped send shares higher on low volume. Corporate profits increased but revenues fell; companies laid off workers and trimmed expenses to fatten the bottom line. Profitability has been maintained even though the overall size of the pie has shrunk. Stocks rallied on what is essentially bad news.