Understanding What Recessions Are

One of the misunderstandings about recessions is what actually happens in the real world. A recession is where economic growth stops, and you are left with flat to contracting sales.

Real_retail_salesNote that economic activity does not grind to a halt — the year-over-year growth rate merely slips into the negative. This is often misstated, in some variation of "Gee, how it can it be a recession — I was out shopping and the stores were pretty crowded." Whenever you see that, the speaker is either technically misunderstanding what a recession is — or alternatively, is painfully long and hoping for the best.

Of course, Growth may falter, not total economic activity. With the $13 trillion US economy, economic
activity certainly won’t fall to zero dollars. Everyone is still
eating, driving to work, using electricity, phones, buying iPods, etc. If economic activity were to fall to an annual run rate of below $13 trillion dollars for a few quarters, well then there’s your mild recession. If it drops much below the $12.75 – 13 trillion dollar range, that’s a bit more serious contraction. Indeed, the greater the year over year contraction in economic activity, the deeper the recession.

Consider Housing:
Sales don’t drop from ~7m homes sold to
zero; rather, the number drops significantly (i.e., 4.5m sold). It only
seems like nothing after ther boom years.

But even if US activity were to drop a huge trillion dollars in a year — thats still a $12 trillion of economic activity, and that typically involves one or two people still going shopping and out to eat occasionally.

So far, we are only at the point where Real Sales have slipped into negative year-over-year territory. High food and energy prices, as well as health care, are keeping nominal sales positive. Outside of that, we see clothing, autos, homes all negative. Consumer Technology spending, and business CapEx spending remain positive.

Indeed, while many aspects of the economy are revealing marked weakness, select areas are still hanging on. We are just as likely to be in a recession — as not — as of February 19th, 2008.

>
Real GDP Growth, Annualized Year over Year
Q1 1990 – Q3 2007

Q_growth_real_gdp

Source: Economagic

~~~

Note:  We were out and about this past 3 day weekend (its not all linkfests); Our anecdotal expeiences are after the jump…   

Read More

Category: Consumer Spending, Economy, Retail

Born Standing Up

Category: Books

50 Years of Market Swings

Category: Investing, Markets, Technical Analysis, Trading

Credit Default Swaps and Financial WMDs

Category: Credit, Derivatives, Investing

3-Day-Weekend Linkfest!

Category: Financial Press

Category: Credit, Derivatives, Real Estate

Don’t Follow Wealthy Investors, Part 14

Category: Apprenticed Investor, Investing, Psychology

RSS, Email Subscriptions

Category: Weblogs

Pay More, Get Less

Category: Commodities, Consumer Spending, Economy, Inflation

Friday Night Jazz: Billie Holiday

All_or_nothing_at_allBy now, you should have some feel for my taste in music, and the wide ranging and eclectic flavors that live on my iPod. But unless you are a fool or a wizened old pro, any attempt at doing a Friday Night Jazz on Billie Holiday is likely to fall flat on its face.

Lucky for us, Nat Hentoff — formerly the Music critic of the Village Voice, and now the Jazz columnist  of the WSJ is just such an old pro. In this week’s WSJ, he looked at a few new reissues of Lady Day’s music:

"Billie must have come from another world," said Roy
Eldridge, often heard accompanying her on trumpet, "because nobody had
the effect on people she had. I’ve seen her make them cry and make them
happy." Lady Day, as tenor saxophonist Lester Young named Billie
Holiday, still has that effect through the many reissues of her
recordings, including the recently released "Lady Day: The Master Takes
and Singles" of the 1933-44 sessions (Columbia/Legacy, available on
Amazon) that established her in the jazz pantheon.

Rare_live_recordings_19341959I grew up listening to those sides, which infectiously
demonstrated — as pianist Bobby Tucker, her longtime pianist, noted –
that "she could swing the hardest in any tempo, even if it was like a
dirge . . . wherever it was, she could float on top of it." But none of
the previous reissues, as imperishable as they are, have as intense a
presence of Lady as in the truly historic new five-disc set "Billie Holiday: Rare Live Recordings, 1934-1959" on Bernard Stollman’s ESP-Disk label.

This is a model for future retrospectives of classic
jazz artists of any era because researcher and compiler Michael
Anderson, in his extensive liner notes, provides a timeline of her jazz
life — describing the circumstances of each performance in the context
of her evolving career. One example: a live radio remote from Harlem’s
Savoy Ballroom in 1937 when the 22-year-old singer "began a special
association with her comrade, ‘The Prez,’ Lester Young" — grooving
with the Count Basie band in "Swing Brother Swing."

Complete_billie_holiday_on_columbiaHow could I possibly hope to improve on that?

~~~

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Lady Day, a great place  is NPR Billie Holiday: ‘Lady Sings the Blues’ special. There’s a 54 minute radio broadcast discussing her history and music.

As far as albums go, there are lots of choices, but they pretty much come down to a) Boxed Sets; 2) Early work; 3) Later years.

If you want to start with something basic, go for A Musical Romance -  agreat duet with Holiday and her long time friend and msucial collaborator, Lester Young. You can also go to the 2 disc All or Nothing at All. The 2 CD Complete Decca Recordings is also quite good.

Complete_billie_holiday_on_verve_19For the more ambitious, the boxed sets are the way to go:

Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia (1933-1944)

The Complete Billie Holiday On Verve, 1945-1959   

The set Hentoff refers to above is the 5 disc set  Rare Live Recordings, 1934-1959   

Students of her latter work will be interested in:

Lady in Satin 

Lady in Autumn

Lady_in_satin

 

~~~

Videos after the jump . . . 

 

 

Read More

Category: Digital Media, Friday Night Jazz, Music