Friday, February 06, 2009


'Green Shoots of Recovery' After All?

Shriti Vadera was mercilessly pilloried when she spoke of 'green shoots of reovery' recently but the Telegraph runs a story, 5th February, which more or less suggests the same message.

1. The housing markets are heading upwards, even if prices are still in decline. The Guardian even runs a front page story today about the return of gazumping.

2.Freight rates for bulk transport of iron ore have been edging up too, suggesting industrial production is is on the mend.

3. The debt markets are opening up once again:

"The mood is upbeat. There are swathes of cash pouring back into credit," said Suki Mann, a credit strategist at Société Générale. "The market closed down after the Lehmans collapse so there was a lot of pent-up demand, but they are having to pay materially higher spreads than pre-Lehmans."

4. Whilst banks are still not lending to one another, the key Libor rate has come down to a mere 1%.

5. The Federal Reserve's surveys show lening is beginning to pick up again, though 'tentatively' and house sales-where all this trouble started in the first place- are showing some early signs of picking up in the USA.

But all these signs could prove a chimera; revivals can be brief and soon disappear, as Japan has discovered over the past decade. The article closes on this downbeat warning note:

"Nothing moves down in straight lines," said SocGen's perma-bear Albert Edwards. "There will be little bounces. But our view is that investors can afford to be lazy and wait. There is not a cat's chance in hell that this really is the bottom of the cycle."

My impression is that the last comment is probably closer to the truth. Housing is still way overvalued in historical terms. Key indicators say that we are at least 12 months away from a bottom. I would suggest closer to 18 in most indices. Some people are whistling in the wind if they think prices will stop falling when unemployment is so clearly on an up trend.

Government action will undoubtedly speed the recovery although perhaps bring the next recession closer since there is now long-term inflationary pressure. Equity markets have probably bottomed already. I have been moving capital back there and am looking for an upturn in the second quarter.

All too late for the one eyed Scottish idiot.
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