MacroScope

from Shop Talk:

Check Out Line: “Bipolar” sales could signal better April

Check out this deeper look at March's same-store sales results.

BLACKFRIDAY/Last week, retailers reported monthly sales that declined less than expected, a possible sign that shoppers may be regaining confidence to open their wallets after more than a year of recession.

On Monday, Lazard Capital Markets analyst Todd Slater offered his detailed take on the numbers, which he labeled as "bipolar"  -- with comp store sales more negative than expected, but earnings more positive.

"Many retailers raised guidance despite worse-than-expected March comps, an indication that analysts are now too negative and consensus estimates are low enough," he wrote. 

"Only 39 percent of the group beat consensus expectations (breaking a string of four consecutive months where more than half the group exceeded expectations), but no retailer lowered guidance and 11 retailers guided the outlook to the high end of their ranges or raised their outlooks."

So what does this all mean?

Well, Slater says "Ma-April" (or March and April combined) will be “less bad” than March, and April will be even better.

Canada dresses up for bears

For all the designer drinks and gourmet foods – from raw oysters to sushi, and the sea of men in expensive suits and bejeweled women in elegant gowns, the setting seemed fit only for celebration.

But dressed as they were to the nines, investors attending “A Night with the Bears” at Toronto’s upscale Elgin Theatre, were eager to hear the worst, on the edges of plush seats amid predictions of market doom from some of the continent’s savviest
financial minds.

“I only wish we’d sold tickets,” said a smiling Eric Sprott, arguably Canada’s best known hedge fund manager and chairman at Sprott Asset Management Inc, as he looked out at the 1,500 or so crowd.

from UK News:

Ghost of past failure haunts G20

Stopping off in New York during a marathon, 18,000-mile diplomatic offensive before next week’s G20 summit in London next week, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recalled a conference held in eerily similar circumstances in London 76 years ago.

Sixty-six nations gathered for the June 1933 London Monetary and Economic Conference which was aimed at lifting the world’s economy out of the Depression.

But amid American opposition to European plans to return to a system of fixed exchange rates, the conference collapsed and the world put up trade barriers, jobless ranks swelled and the rise of Fascism took the world into war.

from Mark Felsenthal:

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Collapsing Economy

"I think, Watson," Sherlock Holmes tells Watson in "The Five Orange Pips,"  "that of all our cases we have had none more fantastic than this."

The famous fictitious sleuth referred not to a world-wide financial crisis, but a multi-continental saga of murderous revenge, and it also centered on the British hamlet of Horsham, where the Group of 20 rich and emerging nations are meeting to solve their own baffling case, the Global Economic Collapse of 2008-?. 

Readers who not like the endings of stories given away should read no futher. Readers hoping for a hopeful analogy to a story about brains and pluck overcoming adversity should also click away from this post immediately.

Welcome to “The Great Recession”

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a name. We are living through “The Great Recession”. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, used the term to describe our current angst on a trip to Africa this week. He may not have been the first to use it — we have found other citations, including JPMorgan — but the guessing here is that it may  stick with him because of his role.

It’s a pretty neat moniker, actually. It resonates, of course, with “Great Depression” but without the soup lines and Hoovervilles. At the same time, it differentiates between the severe contraction now under way and run-of-the-mill economic misery. It also has the snappiness that media folks like — hence this post.

The Bretton Woods duo of IMF and World Bank have been underlining how bad things are. Strauss-Kahn, for example, tells Reuters that delays in bank restructuring could mean economic recovery is not on the cards even in 2010 (which sounds a long way off, but is only next year). Then comes Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, who opines to Britain’s Daily Mail that global growth will probably fall about 1 to 2 percent this year.

from Mark Felsenthal:

Greenspan slammed

Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan isn't getting the respect he used to.

Greenspan's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal drew withering criticism from High Frequency Economics' Ian Shepherdson, who was unimpressed with the Maestro's denial of any Fed contribution to the country' worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Greenspan: "Given the decoupling of monetary policy from long-term mortgage rates, accelerating the path of monetary tightening that the Fed pursued in 2004-2005 could not have 'prevented' the housing bubble."

Shepherdson: "We were appalled and outraged by Alan Greenspan's self-serving it-wasn't-my-fault op-ed... If Mr. Greenspan can say with a straight face that this was not a consequence of the Fed's excessively easy stance then either he is delusional or a very talented poker player."

Need a job? Try Wyoming

It’s no surprise that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report on state unemployment is grim reading. Unemployment is up in 49 of 50 states (go Louisiana!). 

It may also be telling us something troubling about the prospects for recovering from this recession quickly. The states with low unemployment aren’t exactly the most exciting places to live, and even if you were prepared to move there’s the not-so-small matter of trying to sell your home in the middle of a housing crisis.

The states with the lowest unemployment include Wyoming, North and South Dakota, and Nebraska — far from the coasts where populations — and unemployment — are higher. Which brings us to the Oswald Hypothesis (don’t worry — we didn’t know what it was either until JP Morgan economist Michael Feroli mentioned it). Higher homeownership rates may increase the natural unemployment rate, essentially because that makes it harder for people to pick up and move.

MacroScope video: Lakshman Achuthan

Lakshman Achuthan, managing director at the Economic Cycle Research Institute, speaks to Pedro Nicolaci da Costa about his views of the recession, the current economic environment, and possible steps that could lead to a turnaround.

Finns told to smash piggy banks

In Finland, public service messages have turned to pleading with people to consume more to stave off the recession.

The “Ala ruoki lamaa“, or “Don’t feed the recession”, campaign says being too cautious in consumption is one factor feeding the recession, and it seeks to make people understand the importance of private consumption to the economy.

Posters of a piggy bank equipped with fangs and horns greet travellers on tram stops in Helsinki, and television viewers see spots showing consumers feeding the recession by curbing consumption.

The Beige Book Chronicles

The U.S. Federal Reserve’s Beige Book survey of economic conditions is always chock full of goodies for the econ wonks among us. Today’s installment is a recession-era opus, chronicling in amazing detail just how sharply the economy is falling. Allow us to present a top 10 list of interesting observations:

10. Across the country, demand for professional services was down. “However, Dallas noted a modest increase, albeit less-than-expected, in demand for legal services due to increased bankruptcy proceedings.”

9. In New York City, revenues per hotel room were reported down a record 30 percent in January from a year earlier. Some 13 Broadway shows closed in January.