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Sunday, December 14, 2008

What is a recession ?


In economics, the term recession generally describes the reduction of a country's gross domestic product (GDP) for at least two quarters. The usual dictionary definition is "a period of reduced economic activity", a business cycle contraction.

The U.S.-based National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) defines economic recession as: "a significant decline in [the] economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP growth, real personal income, employment (non-farm payrolls), industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales



Attributes of recessions
In macroeconomics, a recession is a decline in a country's gross domestic product (GDP), or negative real economic growth, for two or more successive quarters of a year.

An alternative, less accepted definition of recession is a downward trend in the rate of actual GDP growth as promoted by the business-cycle dating committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research.[1] That private organization defines a recession more ambiguously as "a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months." A recession has many attributes that can occur simultaneously and can include declines in coincident measures of activity such as employment, investment, and corporate profits. A severe or prolonged recession is referred to as an economic depression.


[edit] Predictors of a recession
There are no completely reliable predictors. These are regarded to be possible predictors.[6]

In the U.S. a significant stock market drop has often preceded the beginning of a recession. However about half of the declines of 10% or more since 1946 have not been followed by recessions.[7] In about 50% of the cases a significant stock market decline came only after the recessions had already begun.
Inverted yield curve,[8] the model developed by economist Jonathan H. Wright, uses yields on 10-year and three-month Treasury securities as well as the Fed's overnight funds rate.[9] Another model developed by Federal Reserve Bank of New York economists uses only the 10-year/three-month spread. It is, however, not a definite indicator;[10] it is sometimes followed by a recession 6 to 18 months later.
The three-month change in the unemployment rate and initial jobless claims.
Index of Leading (Economic) Indicators (includes some of the above indicators

[edit] Responding to a recession
Strategies for moving an economy out of a recession vary depending on which economic school the policymakers follow. While Keynesian economists may advocate deficit spending by the government to spark economic growth, supply-side economists may suggest tax cuts to promote business capital investment. Laissez-faire economists may simply recommend that the government not interfere with natural market forces. Populist economists may suggest that benefits for consumers, in the form of subsidies or lower-bracket tax reductions are more effective and serve a double purpose including relieving the suffering caused by a recession.[citation needed]

Both government and business have responses to recessions. In the Philadelphia Business Journal, Strategic Business adviser Carter Schelling has discussed precautions businesses take to prepare for looming recession, likening it to fire drill. First, he suggests that business owners gauge customers' ability to resist recession and redesign customer offerings accordingly. He goes on to suggest they use lean principles, replace unhappy workers with those more motivated, eager and highly competitive. Also over-communicate. "Companies," he says, "get better at what they do during bad times." He calls his program the "Recession Drill."





Stock market and recessions
This article or section deals primarily with the United States and does not represent a worldwide view of the subject.
Please improve this article or discuss the issue on the talk page. (September 2008)

Some recessions have been anticipated by stock market declines. In Stocks for the Long Run, Siegel mentions that since 1948, ten recessions were preceded by a stock market decline, by a lead time of 0 to 13 months (average 5.7 months). It should be noted that ten stock market declines of greater than 10% in the DJIA were not followed by a recession.

The real-estate market also usually weakens before a recession.However real-estate declines can last much longer than recessions.

Since the business cycle is very hard to predict, Siegel argues that it is not possible to take advantage of economic cycles for timing investments. Even the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) takes a few months to determine if a peak or trough has occurred in the US.

During an economic decline, high yield stocks such as financial services, pharmaceuticals, and tobacco tend to hold up better. However when the economy starts to recover and the bottom of the market has passed (sometimes identified on charts as a MACD [18]), growth stocks tend to recover faster. There is significant disagreement about how health care and utilities tend to recover. Diversifying one's portfolio into international stocks may provide some safety; however, economies that are closely correlated with that of the U.S.A. may also be affected by a recession in the U.S.A..

There is a view termed the halfway rule according to which investors start discounting an economic recovery about halfway through a recession. In the 16 U.S. recessions since 1919, the average length has been 13 months, although the recent recessions have been shorter. Thus if the 2008 recession is an average one, the downturn in the stock market should bottom around November of 2008. However some economists fear that this recession may last longer.


[edit] Recession and politics
Generally an administration gets credit or blame for the state of economy during its time.[22] This has caused disagreements about when a recession actually started.[23] In an economic cycle, a downturn can be considered a consequence of an expansion reaching an unsustainable state, and is corrected by a brief decline. Thus it is not easy to isolate the causes of specific phases of the cycle.

The 1981 recession is thought to have been caused by the tight-money policy adopted by Paul Volcker, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, before Ronald Reagan took office. Reagan supported that policy. Economist Walter Heller, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the 1960s, said that "I call it a Reagan-Volcker-Carter recession. The resulting taming of inflation did, however, set the stage for a robust growth period during Reagan's administration.

It is generally assumed that government activity has some influence over the presence or degree of a recession. Economists usually teach that to some degree recession is unavoidable, and its causes are not well understood. Consequently, modern government administrations attempt to take steps, also not agreed upon, to soften a recession. They are often unsuccessful, at least at preventing a recession, and it is difficult to establish whether they actually made it less severe or longer lasting.[citation needed]

Understanding of the word "recession" differs between economists, newspapers, and the general public. Generally speaking, a recession is present when graphs are sloping down in respect to production and employment. Consequently, a politician can truthfully say "the recession is over," even though little has improved. This may imply to the public that the economy is in recovery, suggesting the graphs are sloping upward, though there may actually exist a period of stagnation, when numbers remain low even though they are no longer dropping.[citation needed]


[edit] History of recessions

[edit] Global recessions
There is no commonly accepted definition of a global recession, IMF regards periods when global growth is less than 3% to be global recessions. The IMF estimates that global recessions seem to occur over a cycle lasting between 8 and 10 years. During what the IMF terms the past three global recessions of the last three decades, global per capita output growth was zero or negative.

Economists at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) state that a global recession would take a slowdown in global growth to three percent or less. By this measure, three periods since 1985 qualify: 1990-1993, 1998 and 2001-2002.


United Kingdom recessions
Main article: List of recessions in the United Kingdom

United States recessions
Main article: List of recessions in the United States
According to economists, since 1854, the U.S.A. has encountered 32 cycles of expansions and contractions, with an average of 17 months of contraction and 38 months of expansion[27]. However, since 1980 there have been only eight periods of negative economic growth over one fiscal quarter or more[28], and four periods considered recessions:

January-July 1980 and July 1981-November 1982: 2 years total
July 1990-March 1991: 8 months
March 2001-November 2001: 8 months
December 2007-December 2008: 11 months and counting*
* Note that this latest recession doesn't meet the traditional two quarter drop in GDP, yet it is considered a recession by the NBER.

From 1991 to 2000, the U.S. experienced 37 quarters of economic expansion, the longest period of expansion on record.

For the past three recessions, the NBER decision has approximately conformed with the definition involving two consecutive quarters of decline. However the 2001 recession did not involve two consecutive quarters of decline, it was preceded by two quarters of alternating decline and weak growth.
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