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Welcome to the Depression

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Avalanche of layoffs shows this is no recession.

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Recession:
A recession occurs when a nation's living standards drop and prices increase. This downturn in economic activity is widely defined as a decline in a country's gross domestic product for at least 2 quarters.

Depression:
An economic condition caused by a massive decrease in business activity, falling prices, reduced purchasing power, excess of supply over demand, rising unemployment, and other negative economic factors.
- Bloomberg financial definitions

Truth or Dare: Recession or Depression?

As unpopular as it may have been, I have been writing about the impending recession over the past several years. I am rather used to being called a "perma-bear" as it relates to the asset-based, over-leveraged mess we call our economy.


Truthfully, it's been no fun whatsoever to call 'em as I see 'em. An outlier view has been a necessary evil, however, and one that I've been proud to have had the guts to provide.

I will now turn to what, in my view, is the biggest risk of all: We're in a recession - and the economy can actually shrink. And shrink it has, is, and will likely continue to do. The question now: Are we going through a traditional recession, or a once-in-a-lifetime depression?

I actually hoped the unprecedented credit unwind would end up in a nasty recession; but I fear a depression is either upon us or will soon be upon us. To be truthful is essential in markets and life: To face head-on the bad news which isn't at all fun or exciting to face.

I hate to say this, as unpopular as it may be: Welcome to the depression. For my reasoning, please read on.

Putting the Recession Question to Bed

GDP estimates for 2008's fourth quarter are due to be released on Friday morning at 8:30 a.m., with estimates coming in the -5.5% range, which follows a -0.5% number in the prior quarter. Many believe the economy will turn around in the second half of the year, when the Obama administration's fiscal stimulus plan makes things all better.

I couldn't disagree more. We have seen these stimulus plans before: Dropping $500 checks into the mail has produced more savings and debt repayment - but not a flow of steady consumption by consumers. Seriously, with new claims for unemployment benefits now averaging over 500,000 per week, the economy losing 600,000 jobs per month, and leverage still piled up on top of leverage, I think the odds of the economy being in growth by the end of 2009 (and possibly the end of 2010) is nothing more than a pipe-dream.

GDP Quarterly Change Since 1994


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