Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hang On! Economy Hasn't Hit Bottom Yet

Summertime and the cost of living ain't that easy. Not this year, at least.
We're at 2008's halfway mark and indications are the economy is tumbling with no sign of hitting a bottom. Some economic optimists say we'll start to bounce back in the third or fourth quarter. Don't count on it.
Perhaps 2009. Perhaps.
We all know the problems.
Home values are declining and foreclosures are rising, business and mortgage credit is tightening (although the credit card companies keep sending out those "You've been pre-approved" credit card applications to consumers), and household debt is piling up. Did I fail to mention the escalating price of gas and food?
What's more, greater unemployment is just around the corner. Recently, the Business Roundtable's CEO Outlook panel predicted a 6.5 percent unemployment rate by mid-2009. Right now, we're at 5.5 percent--so that's a significant increase at the unemployment line.
While everyday working people are scared, Wall Street types are in a near panic.
Trading floors have always been rumor mills, but lately they've really been buzzing with recurring tales of insolvencies, recapitalisation and bargain-basement buyouts of major investment houses.
This week, all eyes are on Lehman Brothers, which is rumored to be on the selling block and running out of money--something the firm denies. Keep in mind,however, that Bear Stearns said pretty much the same thing before it was swallowed whole by JP Morgan Chase (with an assist from the Federal Reserve).
We'll see.
Frankly, I don't mind if some greedy and crafty Wall Street players get their comeuppance. But Wall Street's missteps always have a way of tripping up Main Street and injuring innocent bystanders, so expect some major fallout if an investment firm bites the dust.
On CNBC, many so-called economic experts debate whether we're really in a recession.
Technically, it may not be a recession.
But you know what? It sure feels like one.


Clay Felker: An Editor With Style. More years back than I care to remember, I had my one and only dinner with famed editor Clay Felker. Throughout the meal, Felker told a string of fascinating stories about the New York media scene in the 1960s and 70s--his heyday for editing some of the world's best magazines.
We dined at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. Felker, who was then running Adweek magazine, was talking to me about a position in its Chicago bureau. After eating, we took a stroll around the swanky neighborhood with Felker puffing on a cigar and ruminating on the state of journalism, politics and anything else he wanted.
A week or so later, I had a follow-up phone conversation with him and expressed some reservations about the job. Felker screamed at me and slammed down the phone. (I later learned that he was notorious for such fast and furious responses).
So, I never worked for him. But wish I had.
My wife, however, did work for Felker and, upon hearing of his death, remembered him as an editor with an unmatched sense of journalistic style. As usual, she's right.


Banking on Buffett. One fellow who is prospering in these uncertain times is ultra-wealthy investor Warren Buffett.
This blog has occasionally chronicled Buffett's shrewd investments and his ample marketplace clout.
To learn more about Buffett, pick up the latest issue of Bloomberg Markets and read it's excellent cover story, "Why Buffett is Buying."


Happy Fourth of July! Check out a fireworks display, unfurl the flag, go to a parade or rent a copy of "Yankee Doodle Dandy" with the late, great James Cagney as George M. Cohan.
Whatever you end up doing, put aside your concerns for a moment to ponder what a great country this is and how we can make it even better.
Have a terrific Fourth.
Cheers!



(Economy graphic courtesy of Stone Soup Station via Google Images)

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