Well, the first round goes to the “V”! Since last spring, economists have been debating on the shape of the recovery. Roubini saw a L, at best, while others said U, V or W. As Bespoke Investment chart shows, it is definitely not a L nor a U. The nice thing is that the debate will now be focused on fewer letters although other shapes will not doubt start to be invoked. How many W shapes are there?
While the ultimate pace of the economic rebound continues to be
debated, GDP in the fourth quarter rose 5.7% (expectations were for growth of 4.6%), which was the fastest pace in six years. Granted, this growth follows an even bigger decline of 6.4% in the first quarter of 2009, but at least it’s a start. Judging by the performance of equities in the fourth quarter, and the earnings reports we’ve seen so far, we already knew the fourth quarter was strong, the big question is whether or not this growth will continue in Q1. Based on what we’ve seen so far in terms of guidance, companies seem to have a positive outlook.
Meanwhile, David Rosenberg keeps whistling the same tune:
First, the report was dominated by a huge inventory adjustment — not the onset of a new inventory cycle, but a transitory realignment of stocks to sales. Excluding the inventory contribution, GDP would have advanced at a much more tepid 2.2% QoQ annual rate, not really that much better than the soft 1.5% reading in the third quarter.
Second, it was a tad strange to have had inventories contribute half to the GDP tally, and at the same time see import growth cut in half last quarter. Normally, inventory adds are at least partly fuelled by purchases of foreign-made inputs. Not this time. Strip out inventories and the foreign trade sector, we see that domestic demand growth in the fourth quarter actually slowed to a paltry 1.7% annual rate from 2.3% in the third quarter. Some recovery. (…)
Third, if you believe the GDP data — remember, there are more revisions to come — then you de facto must be of the view that productivity growth is soaring at over a 6% annual rate. No doubt productivity is rising — just look at the never-ending slate of layoff announcements. But we came off a cycle with no technological advance and no capital deepening, so it is hard to believe that productivity at this time is growing at a pace that is four times the historical norm.(…)