Roubini -“Dr. Doom” says the worst is over…..

Posted by Dan Denning - Bill Bonner - Daily Reckoning

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Roubini Revised

–As last week ended and stocks rallied, we reported that Nouriel Roubini surprised some investors with his call (apparently) that the worst was behind us. But by the end of Friday’s U.S. trading, Roubini sent out a clarification of his comments. As a result, Friday’s U.S. action was fairly muted.

–For the record, Roubini said, “”It has been widely reported today that I have stated that the recession will be over ‘this year’ and that I have ‘improved’ my economic outlook. Despite those reports – however – my views expressed today are no different than the views I have expressed previously. If anything my views were taken out of context.”

–“I have said on numerous occasions that the recession would last roughly 24 months. Therefore, we are 19 months into that recession. If as I predicted the recession is over by year end, it will have lasted 24 months with a recovery only beginning in 2010. Simply put I am not forecasting economic growth before year’s end.”

–“Indeed, last year I argued that this will be a long and deep and protracted U-shaped recession that would last 24 months. Meanwhile, the consensus argued that this would be a short and shallow V-shaped 8 months long recession (like those in 1990-91 and 2001). That debate is over today as we are in the 19th month of a severe recession; so the V is out of the window and we are in a deep U-shaped recession. If that recession were to be over by year end – as I have consistently predicted – it would have lasted 24 months and thus been three times longer than the previous two and five times deeper – in terms of cumulative GDP contraction – than the previous two. So, there is nothing new in my remarks today about the recession being over at the end of this year.

–“I have also consistently argued that there is a risk of a double-dip W-shaped recession toward the end of 2010, as a tough policy dilemma will emerge next year: on one side, early exit from monetary and fiscal easing would tip the economy into a new recession as the recovery is anaemic and deflationary pressures are dominant. On the other side, maintaining large budget deficits and continued monetization of such deficits would eventually increase long term interest rates (because of concerns about medium term fiscal sustainability and because of an increase in expected inflation) and thus would lead to a crowding out of private demand.”

–“While the recession will be over by the end of the year the recovery will be weak given the debt overhang in the household sector, the financial system and the corporate sector; and now there is also a massive re-leveraging of the public sector with unsustainable fiscal deficits and public debt accumulation.”

–“So, yes there is light at the end of the tunnel for the US and the global economy; but as I have consistently argued the recession will continue through the end of the year, and the recovery will be weak and at risk of a double dip, as the challenge of getting right the timing and size of the exit strategy for monetary and fiscal policy easing will be daunting.’

–While Roubini is talking about exiting the strategy of easing fiscal policy, officials in China are warning that said policies may already have caused some danger in the form of risky lending in the real estate market. Hmm. That sounds familiar.

From Bill Bonner:

The average reader or TV viewer will go no further. “Ah,” he says to himself, “good news; the worst is over. China is a green shoot as big as the Amazon. And JPMorgan is a leader in the financial sector. If the financial sector is doing well, the whole world economy must be doing well.”

But here at The Daily Reckoning, we can’t help ourselves. If we see a silver lining, we look for the cloud. We see garbage…we look for the rat… We begin with the JPMorgan profit announcement, because it is the most intriguing. Let us set the stage:

In the last half century, credit has expanded faster even than dress sizes. Naturally, this has made the business of hawking credit extremely profitable. Profits in the financial sector soared to 40% of the U.S. total. And every momma wanted her baby to grow up to be an investment banker.

But then, in 2007 & 2008, the bubble in the financial sector popped. Many banks and financial institutions went broke…or had to be bailed out by the government. Instead of being the world’s highest-flying industry…finance became the scene of its biggest crash.

And now, from all we’ve been able to detect, a fundamental shift has occurred. People are no longer eager to go deeper and deeper into debt. Instead, they are eager to pay off debt…that is, to rid themselves of finance…and to get as far away from the financial sector as possible. Savings rates, for example, have gone from zero to 7% in just the last 12 months.

But in the midst of this remarkable and historic change, we get news that at least a couple of the biggest firms in the financial sector – JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs – are making billions in profits:

“Even as it weathers the worst economic downturn in decades, JPMorgan Chase said Thursday that it had made a $2.7 billion second-quarter profit as a result of stellar trading and investment banking results.”

This was essentially the same story we got from Goldman. Neither bank made its money the old fashioned way — by lending to worthy projects; they made their dough by “trading” and “investment banking.” In other words, they made billions from speculation.

Anyone who takes this as evidence of a recovering economy should work for the government. Only a government economist or a mental defective (excuse us for being redundant) could believe that genuine prosperity can be built on a foundation of speculating by large financial institutions. You can see why by asking a simple question: whom were they trading against?

Speculating is a zero-sum game. No matter who wins, the economy is not a bit better off; it has not a centime more in resources. Goldman and JPMorgan report earning, together, more than $6 billion. Who was on the other side of that trade?

There is also something fishy about the whole thing. Trading is not only a zero-sum game, it’s a game of chance. Traders lose money about as often as they make it. Of course, normally, the traders at the big banks have an advantage; they are not idiots. They make money by taking it away from the amateur traders, who are idiots. But what amateur traders put up $6 billion?

Our guess: the fix is in. They are taking advantage of the feds’ stimulus programs…and trading against the biggest patsy in the world, the U.S. taxpayer. How? We’ll find out how, later…..

Dan Denning is the author of 2005’s best-selling The Bull Hunter (John Wiley & Sons). Dan draws on his network of global contacts from his base in Melbourne. He’s the managing editor of resource newsletter Diggers and Drillers and the editor of the FREE for subcribers –   The Daily Reckoning Australia.

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Bill Bonner
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Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America’s most respected authorities. Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed and internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind The Daily.

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