5. Companies hording
Companies are still holding their cash. A McKinsey and Co. report published in May stated that European and US companies have excess cash of more than $2 trillion. Firms like Apple and Google have accumulated multi-billion dollar cash hordes and have elected to hold that money even at extremely low yields. Other firms like McDonald’s have elected to distribute cash through share buybacks and high dividends. Most major banks have raised or reinstated dividends. Cisco has begun to pay a dividend. Companies as diverse as CVS/Caremark Corp., Family Dollar Stores Inc., and Schlumberger Ltd. have raised their payouts. Dividends help people who own a lot of shares in the companies in question. They do nearly nothing for people who hold small portfolios or who are broke and unemployed. Cash not used to create jobs either directly through hiring or indirectly through capital expenditure does not help the economy.
6. Everyone’s shedding their workforce
Companies are no longer adding jobs and governments are laying off employees. The May unemployment numbers told a story of a stagnant job market. Recent jobless claim levels have confirmed it. The private sector has become worried about GDP which has only grown by 2% recently. That is not enough for many firms to decide to add significant numbers of workers. And, unemployment rates are now being moved higher by government layoffs, a result of the “new austerity.” The new federal government budget is likely to make matters worse. The Brookings Institution recently said in its Government Employment and Economic Recovery that the single biggest threat to the economic recovery of many cities is layoffs of government workers.
7. China’s slowing economy
China’s economy will slow considerably. The economic dynamics of China combine high food costs with faltering purchasing and manufacturing. China’s factory output is no longer growing and it is entering what it would view as a recession by the standards of the People’s Republic–a growth rate well below its typical 10% of better. Goldman Sachs recently chopped its forecast for China GDP. High oil prices contribute according to the investment bank. Faltering demand for China’s exports is another. American exports to China rose 32% in 2010 to a record $91.9 billion, and have surged 468% over the past decade, according to the U.S.- China Business Council. Americans usually complain about the heavy flow of China exports to the US. But, many American industrial and service firms need China sales to bolster their bottom lines.
8. Greece is tanking
Greece will go under and take many other small EU nations with it. Austerity measures by Greece will not save it from default according to most credit experts. Even if budget and wage cuts buy the nation some time, the lack of stimulus will ruin a job market which already has a 40% unemployment rate among its youth. Ireland and Portugal have similar problems. A series of defaults among the nations may damage the bank and credit system more than the collapse of Lehman. It will certainly decimate earnings and balance sheets of many European banks. The EU portion of the global bank system could go into a state of shock that would cripple the global credit process. Another by-product of ruined banks is that access to the capital needed to drive economic growth will disappear. A sharp slowdown of EU consumer spending will cripple the US export economy, particularly if combined with a slowdown in China.
Douglas A. McIntyre