Katrina Lowers Year End Expectations

Forget most of what you are reading about the post-Katrina
recovery. This is an unprecedented U.S. disaster that will have repercussions -
around the global economy, but most especially domestically. A major American
city has been all but wiped off the map, taking the country’s largest port with
it. To put this into context, the costs for rebuilding New Orleans after
Katrina will exceed those of rebuilding Chicago after the great fire, San
Francisco after the 1906 earthquake, and New York and D.C. after September 11th
- combined. And that’s after adjusting for inflation.

Despite what some of the more bullish pundits have been
saying, the stimulus of rebuilding New Orleans will not outweigh the
overall loss to the economy; if it did, we would level a different city each
year and rebuild it from the ground up, shiny and new. But it doesn’t, and so
we don’t.

This comes when the Consumer is running increasingly low on
dry powder. As we noted last week, the consumer is nearly – but not quite – shopped out.  Gas price spiking added some caution to their already waning sentiment.

Additionally, we note that the market’s impressive
resilience in the face of such adversity is not historically unprecedented.
When the great San Francisco earthquake hit, it took markets several weeks to
register the colossal costs and impact. So too, the market all but ignored the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo of the
U.S. For two weeks, US stock markets
actually traded sideways, before recognizing what the enormity of what the
embargo meant to the U.S.

Further, we note that Katrina has revealed the surprisingly
steep learning curve of key economic players. Alan Greenspan has learned (to
his dismay) that Jawboning is a 2 way street. He has discovered the Markets can
exert a formidable force. Having declared that the Fed must now pause on 9/20 -
and rallying in anticipation – the markets will throw a tantrum in the event
the Fed does not. How he handles this may impact how quickly the economy
recovers.

Thus, for the second time
this year, I am changing my
expectations for the market for the calendar year. Recall that previously, I was looking for a mid year peak in the markets, sliding off to finish the
year flat. What we’ve seen instead is a low set in May, followed by a sizable
rally. The endgame for this cyclical Bull now looks less and less like a blow
off top. In its stead, a more rounded top – a grinding affair, lower, slower,
and far less dramatic than previously expected – is increasingly likely, as the
the impact of Katrina makes its way into the equity markets.

This Bull is now more likely to end with a whimper, and not
with a bang.

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Economic, Market Impact Of Hurricane Katrina

Good round up from Dow Jones:

Over a week after making
landfall, the broad economic fallout from Hurricane Katrina continues to
unfold. Economists are downgrading their third quarter growth forecasts for
the U.S. economy and not all think that rebuilding in the wake of the storm
will bring things back in the fourth quarter. Markets have stabilized
however, taking their cue from the price of oil and other refined energy
products, which have been hit by a major international effort to release
emergency energy reserves in an attempt to alleviate a supply crunch.
Estimates of the economic loss from the hurricane exceed $100 billion, with
the Senate’s top Democrat putting it closer to $150 billion.

Here
are some of the main market and economic impacts:

Read More

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