What is in this article?:
- The economy is still out of gas, struggling to find relief.
- Agriculture is faring considerably better than the rest of the economy.
- The latest USDA figures project that net farm income will increase this year to $77.1 billion, the fourth highest level ever.
- Fertilizer and fuel costs have stabilized for farmers, with prices lower than they were in 2008 in the middle of the recession.
A faint economic heartbeat
“While the economy is said to be growing, you have to struggle to hear its heartbeat,” Penson said.
Unemployment is 9.6 percent. It was 5 percent at the start of the last recession in December 2007.
Businesses continue to pare costs to make a profit.
Eight million people have lost jobs since the end of the recession.
8.6 million people are under employed — ”college graduates flipping hamburgers.”
Consumers are not spending because of continued economic uncertainty. Debt is still high, but consumers are working it down. 45 percent of households have cut back on expenses, and half of the population is pessimistic about the economy.
23 percent of homeowners are upside down on their mortgages and more foreclosures are coming, Penson said.
Interest rates are low and that is good news for banks, but financial institutions are being stingy with loans. Although 275 banks have folded since Washington Mutual went under in 2008, Penson said other banks are showing their best profits in three years. Consumers, corporations and banks are hoarding what they have.
The Fed has announced it will be buying $600 billion in government securities to encourage banks to lend and consumers to buy. “There are no guarantees it will work,” Penson said. This likely will do nothing more than give Congress the excuse to avoid making critical tax and spending decisions to improve the economy.
The overall problem, Penson said, is not liquidity, but a lack of confidence that things will improve any time soon among the people and businesses. “We do not have a supply problem. It is a demand problem."
What is needed to turn the economy around is “transparent” economic policy rules from Washington.
However, Penson expects “little to happen” to improve the situation. The only change, he predicts, will be more television time for politicians to offer insight.