Danske Bank has a nice piece of research out that provides the other side of the bearish view on all the recent economic data. They actually believe the data in the near-term will continue to be very weak. Specifically, they say the ISM data is likely to mean revert (something I wholeheartedly agree with). But they think it’s incorrect to get overly bearish because of this. In fact, they say it will result in a “false growth scare”:
“We believe that we are going to see more signs of weaker activity from different indicators in the coming months. For example, the US ISM manufacturing index is expected to decline in coming months as indicated by the Philadelphia Fed survey. Declines in PMI in other countries such as Euro Flash PMI for May point to a slowing global industrial cycle, which should become visible in the US as well.
Supporting the case for a stronger decline in the ISM manufacturing index is also that hard data have been much weaker than suggested by the ISM index. Firstly, GDP growth was actually below trend in Q1 rising 1.8% q/q annualised. Last time there was such a large divergence between GDP growth and ISM was in 2004 and subsequently we saw a quite fast decline in the ISM index (see chart on page 1). Secondly, industrial production has already slowed. The three-month annualised growth rate was only 1.8% in April, down from the strong levels in mid 2010 of 9.5%.
We believe this may contribute to another “false” growth scare as we have seen quite a few times, when ISM goes down fairly rapidly. At the same time, though, we look for US GDP growth to recover slowly already from Q2 and especially in H2 to a pace of 3.5-4% AR. This will very much mirror what we saw in early 2005 when ISM continued lower coming from a “too high” level relative to hard data while at the same time GDP growth stayed around 3% growth. The growth scare may be heightened by the ongoing budget discussions culminating in late July as we approach the deadline for a raise of the debt limit. This will put focus on the significant tightening of fiscal policy in 2012 and 2013.
As growth recovers and ISM stabilises during autumn, the growth scare should fade again, though, and we may see some relief that growth has not derailed after all.”
Ultimately, they see three primary factors continuing to power the economy higher – declining oil prices, improving jobs and improving credit trends:
“Three factors to support consumption in coming quarters However, the US households will benefit from three important factors:
1. Decline in oil prices: Since early May oil prices have fallen by app. USD15 to USD112 per barrel. We expect oil prices to stay lower and average USD116 for the rest of the year, which means that the PCE deflator is likely to fall back to around 2% by the end of the year giving a lift to real consumption growth of 2 percentage points. This means that more of the rise in nominal spending will feed into real consumption as less is absorbed by price increases.
2. Labour market improving: Another important factor that will underpin consumption growth is the rise in nominal income growth stemming from the improving labour market situation – see Flash Comment: US payrolls point to solid income gains. In April our income proxy derived from the US employment report rose to 5.5%. This income growth stems from a stronger rise in payrolls of 244k and a rise in average hours. Wage growth, though, is very subdued (around 2%) and is dampening overall income growth. In coming quarters we expect job growth to continue around 225-250k and we look for a further rise in average hours. Wage growth is expected to stay low, but in total this should keep nominal income growth in coming quarters around 5-6%.
3. Credit growth rising: The latest Senior Loan Officer Survey pointed to further improvement in credit standards for households and a stronger willingness to lend. Consumers’ demand for credit is also on the rise. This will increasingly underpin private consumption on top of the robust income picture.
In sum, the fundamentals for private consumption look fairly solid and we expect private consumption growth to climb steadily higher in coming quarters to 3.0% in Q2 and 4.0% in Q3 as the headwind from oil prices eases gradually and real income growth rises (there is normally a lag of 1-2 months from oil prices to the PCE deflator). The savings ratio is expected to be broadly flat around 5.5% – as has been the case over the past year after the sharp correction higher during the financial crisis.”
I think this is a pretty reasonable outlook for now. The near-term downside in the economic data will create a headwind for markets, however, I wouldn’t become overly scared about a double dip unless the European crisis gets out of hand, austerity hits the USA or China’s slowdown proves to be something closer to a hard landing.
Source: Danske Bank
Mr. Roche is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Discipline Funds.Discipline Funds is a low fee financial advisory firm with a focus on helping people be more disciplined with their finances.
He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance, Understanding the Modern Monetary System and Understanding Modern Portfolio Construction.