January 14, 2019
U.S. economic growth has been up, the bull run in the stock market has been long and profitable, and unemployment has been down. There’s no denying that is a wonderful combination.
However, there are a few signs the bears are waking up to bring the party to a halt.
First, nearly all measures indicate the housing market is declining. New and existing home sales, pending sales, housing starts, median prices, and mortgage applications – they’re down relative to just a few months ago.
Rises in interest rates are one culprit. Median home prices fell relative to last year, and the highest number of new homes are on the market since 2009.
If this looks familiar, you’re right. Many of these signs appeared in late 2007 and early 2008.
A second unsettling bearish indicator comes from the labor market. Jobless benefit applications increased to a six-month high in late November, with claims creeping up for consecutive weeks.
Things have settled slightly since. That said, in 2008 we saw something similar – a slow creep of jobless claims followed by an avalanche of job losses. Could it happen again? Perhaps.
Piggybacking off that is a third possible forewarning of leaner times ahead – the fact that corporations are announcing major layoffs.
General Motors is cutting its workforce, along with closing five U.S. plants. Sears declared bankruptcy and cut several jobs. Ford could be next on the bad news train. And JC Penny, Walmart, Verizon, IBM, along with many others may follow suit.
So while the economy as a whole is doing well, there are signs of a recession rearing its head, which would bring the party to a standstill.