Recent press reports concerning green shoots are leading consumers to believe that the economy has turned a corner and we are on the road to an economic recovery. However, one has to look at these reports with skepticism and filter through the noise in order to ascertain the real story behind the scenes.

GM and Chrysler’s bankruptcy and reorganization will drag down second half growth rates as long as both firms are in bankruptcy. The quicker both firms emerge the earlier we can start rebuilding consumer confidence.

Recent positive data emanating from the housing market should be watched with skepticism. Housing numbers are reported on a month-over-month comparative basis and with the average temperature rising more people are looking to purchase homes. Once fall rolls around, month-over-month comparisons will fall leading to skepticism about a recovery.

The US housing market will continue to take years removing the overhang currently in place. Uncertainty over the economy will give buyers pause before jumping into the market. An additional bulwark to a recovery in the housing sector is the banks reluctance to make loans. As long as the banking sector views holding bonds over making loans on a risk adjusted basis a housing recovery will be impeded.

Given the low amount of home equity available it is unlikely that homeowners will be able to use equity to fund durable goods purchases and home renovations. Even if a loan was written down to fair value, a bank will be unlikely to extend home equity credit after losing a significant portion of the loan and future interest income.

Since income growth will be slow due to uncertainty in the job market, consumers will not be in a mood to extract equity from their homes and will likely continue to rebuild their savings.

Consumers will spend on necessary purchases but it is unlikely that businesses will fund expansion plans until they see an economic recovery taking place.

Export growth will slow as overseas consumers and businesses look to the US for growth and leadership.

Recent dollar weakness should be viewed not as dollars leaving the country but rather investment dollars held in US Treasuries being swapped for foreign equities as funds who have missed the rally attempt to play catchup. Foreign third tier markets have jumped higher in recent weeks signaling an approaching short-term market top. Second half weakness should be met with a rise in the dollar as funds retrench ahead of the expected weakness.

The differentiator here is not foreigners pulling money out of the US but rather investment funds looking to catch a higher risk adjusted return in foreign markets after the run up in the US markets. This is similar to the events that happened in the fourth quarter of last year when overseas investments were sold and proceeds converted back into US Dollars.

Efforts to restrict government spending in a recession will cause growth to lag and risk causing the recovery to lose traction. Any efforts to restrict spending should be focused on government waste with efforts on projects which will create jobs now and in the next upcycle. Increased R&D spending along with infrastructure improvements are the projects which will provide current and future benefits. Dog parks and similar programs are wasteful spending which provides no short or long term benefits.

It is likely that the green shoots people are seeing are not the basis for a long-term recovery and just the first bottom in a W shaped economic recovery.

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