Some of my friends and colleagues are busy trying to figure out what could be the shape of the most eagerly awaited recovery. The debate is whether we are going to see a V, W, and U or prolonged I__I shaped recovery. 

 There are some who are suggesting we are probably going to see a V shaped recovery then there are those who are predicting a U or prolonged U shaped recovery and yes there others who believe we might see a W shaped recovery. Boy! Go Figure. Someone has to be right but then I wonder isn’t this all a bit premature? Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves on making such prognoses or am I simply being Silly?

Let’s find out, shall we?

The shape of the current economy could probably give us some clues as to what the shape of the recovery might be or at the least we could rule out some.  To get a good estimate of the health of the economy let us look at some of headline news during the week ending Friday, the 15th May 09.

We will start with the numbers out from the European Union. 

According to European Union’s statistic office the GDP in the 16 member Europe region fell by over 2.5% from the fourth quarter, the steepest decline in over 12 years. This was above the market expectation of 2%. German economy shrank by over 3.8% from the fourth quarter of 08; the Italian economy by close to 2.4%; the Spanish economy contracted by around 1.8% in the first quarter of 09; the French economy by around 1.2%. Some pretty grim numbers, no doubt. The Euro zone inflation is at record low of 0.6%. Going forward the rising unemployment will dampen the consumer confidence and there is a strong possibility of inflation remaining lower the ECB’s target of 2%.

 And how are things at the corporate front? 

ING announced higher then expected net loss of Euro 793 million in the first quarter of 09. Allianz reported a fall in profit by over 98%

So how is the UK doing?

According to the Council of Mortgage Lender’s, Home repossession surged by over 51% in the first quarter of 09.  Rents for commercial properties in London fell by over 25% over a period of 12 months. The prognosis is pretty grim especially if we take into account a 56% increase in the number of companies going out of business in England and Wales in the first quarter of 09. With unemployment expected to reach 3 million by 2010 one can safely conclude that we are looking at a slow paced recovery.

Let us look at the US and others.

US retail sales dropped more then expected by 0.4% in April after a 1.3% drop in March. The new mortgage applications dropped to the lowest level since March. Consumers are mostly cash -strapped and to hope that they going to keep spending lavishly is probably a wishful thinking. On the unemployment front the news isn’t good either. The recent announcement by GM to slash its dealership network by around 1,100 and Chrysler by around 789 paints a pretty grim picture.

What about others? 

According to FSS Russia GDP shrank by almost 23% on quarter – on – quarter terms.

China seems to be doing better then the rest. The domestic investment has increased significantly but it will be unwise to assume that China be able to recover in Isolation. The exports and import number out from China are not that encouraging. With the current momentum it is safe to assume that China could grow at 7% or there about in 09 but it won’t be a position to save the world. The data out from China on the 11tth of May suggests very strongly that China has slipped into a deeper disinflation. Consumer prices fell by over 1.5 percent, factory gate prices fell by over 6.5% so it’s highly unlikely that we are going to see a significant increase in demand for raw materials from China. 

There seems to be a slow paced growth momentum building in Asia but it will be unsafe to assume that the recovery will be rapid and the growth will be on a scale seen before.

Something to think about 

When talking about any recovery I think we should keep in mind that going forward the central banks of the world and the governments will have to raise rates and taxes to fix their balance sheet and to deal with hyper inflation. And on top of that we are going to be overloaded with Heavy Regulation. That’s the aftermath. And these are not the factors that will support speedy recovery on a big scale in fact just the opposite; it will choke off the recovery. It’s pretty much like throwing a spanner into a wheel. There is so much uncertainty ahead. I think we can safely rule out a V shaped recovery. We saw most markets get back in the Red again (at least for now) the week ending Friday, the 15th May 09 on growth and earning concerns probably the markets were pricing in a pretty rapid V Shaped recovery which they now believe is extremely unlikely hence the retreat. One can’t help but wonder as to whatever happened to all the talk about the negatives being priced-in? Probably the investors are beginning to realize that the prices rose too fast without any solid fundamental support or justification for it and the massive rallies were overdone. I’m not for a moment assuming or suggesting that we are not going to see speculation driven rallies. 

Going forward 

We are not done with volatility yet. We are going to see more mixed data come out in the next quarter which will probably swing the markets both ways. The hope is that the investors will not loose foresight and look at the story behind the numbers and not get carried away by sheer sentiments like seen in the past. 

All the talk about the shape of the recovery is probably premature and a clear sign of the market getting ahead of itself. We should be able to get a good estimate of the health of the economy after the H1 numbers for 2009 are out. It should serve as a good us a pointer for 2009. It should also tell us if the worst is over or there is more to come. Looking at the first quarter numbers we could safely assume with that recovery most likely months away. 

The bottom line is what the markets need is a sustainable recovery that won’t slip out of our hands. And a slow paced recovery will probably be a blessing in disguise for the global economy. It will take time to reconstruct the financial system which we all know now was pretty flawed to begin with and  prone to boom and bust type events.

The shape is secondary honestly speaking I’ll take it in whatever shape it comes.

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