Better-than-expected” has made more than one appearance in the headlines for some of the most recent economic data.
For the month of September:
-New home sales rose 5.7% to levels not seen since April.
-Orders for durable goods, excluding transportation, increased 1.7%, and nondefense goods, excluding aircraft, increased 2.4%.
-Retail sales grew 1%.
-Third-quarter GDP expectations have been revised to nearly 3% ahead of tomorrow’s announcement.
But despite this good news, the economy is nowhere near safe territory, says Pharo Management’s Mark Dow. “These numbers are very bumpy,” he tells The Daily Ticker’s Henry Blodget. “We shouldn’t look too much quarter to quarter at them. We should look through them a little bit.”
Dow may not think we are headed for another recession, but he certainly doesn’t believe a recovery is imminent. His best-case scenario for the U.S. economy is to “bump along the bottom,” with anemic growth for the next few years.
His slow-growth prediction rests upon one key factor: household debt.
“The underlying structure of demand in this country is very weak. Why? Because we have an overhang of household debt,” says Dow. “It is not because the regulations are bad, it’s not because Obama is a socialist, or what have you, it is really that the households have too much debt, and until they get out from under that debt they won’t be able to generate the top line for companies necessary for them to want to invest.”
In addition to the obvious, too much debt is bad because it makes us vulnerable to exogenous shocks like Europe, he notes. (See: Big Europe Summit Won’t Solve The Problem, Says Mark Dow)
So what’s the solution?
“When you have a debt overhang, the only thing that can cure it is time,” he says, while pointing out that not even the Federal Reserve or Congress can fix this mess.