Back in November, I showed how the capital of American businesses was contracting. I said "regardless of any official announcement of recessions, US businesses have been behaving as they normally do during recessions." It is hard to understand why American businesses are becoming recession-like illiquid when the GDP numbers don’t seem to show any signs of a contracting economy.
Digging deeper, I decided that, much as the government produces inflationary numbers ex-food and energy, it would be just fair to produce GDP numbers ex-government.
As this chart shows, the only thing growing for the last 3 quarters in the American economy is the Government consumption expenditures and gross investment. The rest of the economy is shrinking.
That enough should be an eye opener to those who think the Bush administration is near to anything close to a fiscal conservative administration. However, the real economy looks much worse than that.
Here is why.
One of the GDP measures is Personal Consumption Expenditures, which includes gas and electricity. So, as gas prices rise, the GDP will grow. That’s fine, if you are on the selling side of the gas pump. However, for the consumer, an increase in Personal Consumption Expenditures due to an increase in gas prices is a minus, not a plus: The people’s economy is shrinking, not expanding, if the growth is due to an increase in gas prices.
In that aspect, the official GDP measure is like a doctor who includes the weight of a tumor in the weight of the cancer patient. As the tumor grows, the weight of the cancer patient grows, and the doctor congratulates the patient for his gain in weight declaring him to be healthier. Does it make sense to you? No, neither to the doctor, the patient, or me.
So, I decided to adjust the Personal Consumption Expenditures by the increase of the size of the tumor. With data from the Energy Information Administration I adjusted that item dividing it by the average price of Unleaded Regular Gasoline, for that quarter.
The results for the GDP are slightly different than the official numbers.
So, this is the picture of the GDP ex-Government, ex-Cancer. It shows a recession during the past three quarters, and a previous recession by mid 2006. Exactly the same picture US businesses Undistributed Corporate Profits show.
You may wonder what made the US economy grow so fast from the first to the third quarter of 2007. The answer is nothing. That’s just the increase in exports due to the fall of the dollar. If we adjust the Net exports of goods and services, the picture shows a slight improvement, but not much more.
To adjust the fall of the dollar, I used the average price of Crude Oil for the quarter. You can suggest other measures, like the fall against other currencies, or other commodities, but I think that adjusting by the only commodity that somehow "backs" the Dollar should be fair enough.
Now we have a clear picture of the real economy, or the American People’s GDP.
As a matter of fact, we have had two back to back standard recessions since 2006, with only a brief respite in the first quarter of 2007.
Franklin @ May 4, 2008