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May 02, 2008

Stocks Rise and Dow Rises Above 13,000 as Wall Street Gains Cautious Optimism About the Economy

Did the leftwing dishonest media inadvertently conspire to spare the country a recession?

I'll explain after this.

Wall Street shot higher Thursday as investors, while anticipating another dismal jobs report Friday, viewed the rising dollar and falling oil prices as promising signs for the economy. The Dow Jones industrial average soared nearly 190 points to close above 13,000 for the first time since Jan. 3.

The dollar jumped on better-than-expected economic data and the Federal Reserve's apparent resolve to monitor inflation. The Commerce Department said consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in March, more than predicted, and the Institute for Supply Management said U.S. manufacturing contracted in April by a bit less than anticipated.

The readings were not all positive -- consumer spending ticked higher mainly due to rising energy and food prices. The ISM's report also indicated that companies are hurting from climbing costs.

But the dollar, which has recently strengthened after a protracted decline, rallied anyway, pushing the euro down more than 1 percent to $1.5461 in late trading.


The Dow rose 189.87, or 1.48 percent, to 13,010.00, after briefly rising more than 200 points....

Broader stock indicators also enjoyed a significant advance Thursday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 23.75, or 1.71 percent, to 1,409.34 -- its first settlement above 1,400 since Jan. 14. The Nasdaq composite index climbed 67.91, or 2.81 percent, to 2,480.71, its highest close since Jan. 10.

The dollar's rise came a day after the Fed lowered key interest rates by a quarter-point, but indicated the economy should keep growing moderately, while inflation is the growing concern.

"What we're seeing is that maybe the economy is not falling off a cliff, but perhaps leveling off," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at New York-based brokerage house Avalon Partners Inc. "I think the Fed (rate-cutting campaign) is over with, even though the Fed's statement didn't say that."

By the way, the Dow has since fallen after that big early gain, but it's still up around 10, and still over 13,000.

Now about that inadvertent conspiracy.

Recessions happen largely due to "irrational exuberance" building at the end of a business cycle. Companies stop expanding prudently and begin expanding imprudently. With most good employees already working, they hire marginal employees. They expand into very marginal markets they can only make money on if they get very lucky and if the economy keeps expanding. With stock prices climbing, anyone who wants to buy in has to buy in at inflated costs, well above any realistic estimate off what a stock is genuinely "worth." (I realize it's pretty hard to say anymore what a stock is worth, but at the end of a cycle it gets really ridiculous.)

Everyone knows in such a boom that it's going to end; people just think they'll be good at timing their retreat from spending, hiring, expanding and investing atprecisely the right time and manage to get out from their overextended positions while still coming out ahead.

Some manages this trick. Most don't. Most suffer losses when the balloon is pricked, and then overcorrect for their previous overconfidence and pare spending, workers, investments, etc.

I've read that most stoppages on highways are due to just this sort of thing: People overcorrect on braking when they see cars braking ahead. If everyone just slowed down a little rather than hitting the brakes so hard, there would be no stoppage at all; cars would just flow at 10 or 15 mph slower. But h8mans overcorrect their speed when they see a slowdown, causing a chain-reaction which eventually freezes all traffic at a standstill.

For no particularly good reason. There wasn't an accident or construction or the like. There was just a bit of thickness in traffic with everyone overbraking, ultimately causing a what could be called phantom gridlock. Gridlock for no definable reason.

At any rate, the media have conspired -- knowingly-- to poor-mouth Bush's recovery and expansion for years. The backfire result may be, however, that with genuine economic troubles now being experienced, and more uncertainty on the horizon, there actually might not be a true recession at all -- because the media restrained the country, quite accidentally, from psyching itself into that irrational-exuberance feeding frenzy that usually precedes serious retraction and retrenchment and a deep recession.

So, there are economic troubles now. The public has been informed ceaselessly that there were economic troubles for seven years. So, there is the genuine possibility of a recession now. The public has been informed that there was a recession on the horizon for seven years.

We may actually already be in a recession. But a majority of the public thinks we've been in a recession since Bush took his oath of office.

Ergo, the Bush recovery was prevented by constant undermining of confidence from ever attaining the boom-year highs of most previous business cycles. But that means that confidence -- the sharp turn in which usually causes an overcorrection and a recession -- was never that high to begin with. Which means public confidences really doesn't have that far to fall.

So rather than falling from irrationally high levels into irrationally low depths, public confidence may have been artificially tempered by relentless media alarmism, resulting, much to the MSM's chagrin, in public confidence now all falling to realistically pessimistic levels. That is, reasonable levels, with little of the severe overcorrection that causes a real recession.

To go back to the traffic analogy: Rather than traffic speeding up to a too-fast 80 mph and then everyone having to jam on their breaks at once and thus calling a standstill, instead the media pricks have kept everyone at a more reasonable 60, so now no one really needs to jam on the breaks. They can slow down to 40 and cruise on through, more slowly, yes, but without an actual stoppage.

I mean, seriously. The MSM has been telling us we're all doomed for seven long years. Now they actually have some, you know, actual facts to back up their gloomy predictions, but all that gloom and caution is already baked into the cake. An economic downturn simply can't puncture the balloon of overoptimism when the balloon was never inflated in the first place.

So, if we should happen to pull out of a couple of weak quarters without ever actually going into a recession, continuing the recovery and growth phase of the business cycle: Thanks, MSM!

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posted by Ace at 03:27 PM

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