A spot of temperance in the holiday conviviality may be appropriate.
So, we have the following American phenomena that are indisputable.
1. Housing prices are in freefall. Disputes center on whether the decline will abate in late 2009 or sometime in 2010.
2. Through mismanagement, our money center banks have decapitalized themselves and are insolvent. Okay, this is slightly arguable, apologists would prefer to talk about perfect storms, risk management failures, bailouts, restructurings, etc. Fact of the matter, the banking system is not currently functional.
3. The general economy is, and has been for a year, in a recession. Thank you, NBER.
4. The pattern this recession will take is, at present, unknowable. Pretty clearly, the following are in serious trouble: anyone dependent on consumer spending, the real estate sector, the auto sector, any heavily leveraged organization. It's probably safe to assume that trouble in on its way for anyone whose principle customers fall into any of those catagories, and also for any public sector entity dependent on property or sales tax revenues.
How this will play out is anybody's guess. Typically, a stable banking sector would buffer the healthier parts of the economy from the troubled part. But, basically, the financial services sector is where the whole mess started (yes, subprime lending and a residential real estate bubble were the triggers, but a healthy financial services sector would have buffered the general economy from, rather than amplified and transmitted those problems to, the general economy.
We got a Christmas Card a few days ago wishing us a healthy and a happy 2009, and noting that a prosperous 2009 did not appear to be in the cards. I wish you the same.