Thursday, June 28, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
This chart is from a really cool book called Ahead of the Curve written by Joseph H. Ellis on the vagaries of economic prediction (no oxymoron intended). The book is very well written... brilliant even. One of the coolest concepts in there is something called asymmetrical circular causality. But he can explain that better than I can. Check it out!
Okay, well, if you're too lazy to check it out here's a good summary, written by the author:
* Personal income - largely wages and salaries - is the primary driver of consumer spending, by far the largest sector in the economy. Credit and borrowing play a role, but if we can identify the most important indicators of spending power through wages, we have a shot at forecasting consumer spending.
* Uptrends and downtrends in consumer spending drive advances and declines in manufacturing and services.
* In turn, the capital spending sector of the economy, which includes companies' spending on plants and equipment, follows, like clockwork, the trend set by production and services, and consumer spending before them.
* These three sectors of economic activity - consumer spending, industrial production and services, and capital spending - represent the core of corporate profits produced in the United States, so the dependence of corporate profits on consumer spending is also clear.
* The stock market, which advances and declines as a sensitive predictive mechanism reflecting corporate profits, is therefore also tied closely to consumer spending at the front end of the cycle. This makes it easier to understand the sequencing of the stock market in this chain of cyclical events, with major stock market advances and declines tending to occur at similar points in successive cycles.
* Because business hire or fire workers based on the respective rise or fall of sales and profits, employment - jobs - follows rather than leads the economy. Mastering this fact is one of the core hurdles in overcoming emotional but erroneous reactions to economic news.
"In other words, consumer spending is dominant in the economy as a whole to such an extent that it is, by itself, the sector that cyclically determines the direction of the overall economy. This being the case, carefully monitoring overall consumer spending - or, even more significantly, forecasting the direction of consumer demand - is the key that unlocks effective forecasting for most other developments and sectors in the economy."