Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What Recession? What Credit Crunch?

The chart above (click to enlarge) shows the annual percentage growth rate of the series "Commercial and Industrial Loans at All Commercial Banks," from the Fed, data available here at the St. Louis Fed. For the last 5 months through April 2008, the growth in business loans has been above 20%, the strongest period of growth in commercial loans since 1973.


At 5/13/2008 10:18 AM, Blogger Jack Miller said...

Me too, but! The pattern is that C and I loans grow rapidly in the year or so before the recession hits.

At 5/13/2008 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slightly off topic, but why does so much of the data economics bloggers use come from the St. Louis Fed? Are they the designated data guys, is it the influence of Bill Poole? Why don't I ever see data from the other Federal Reserve Banks?

Kevin Murphy

At 5/13/2008 11:04 PM, Blogger K T Cat said...

I don't know about this data. I just sold my house. Between my realtor and my fiancee who is in real estate, they both tell me loans are a very, very big problem these days. Maybe it's just property loans?

At 5/14/2008 11:23 AM, Blogger Jack Miller said...

The talk is as negative as it gets but perception is often much worse than reality. The average person incorrectly believes that inflation is soaring at an unusually high rate at the same time that the economy is sinking; furthermore, he believes the worst is yet to come. GDP and inflation are derived by multiplying the price of products times the price of products but there is more to each of these computations than meets the eye. The GDP is the great total but it includes other costs necessary to purchase the sum of all the goods. The fact that the mix of goods purchased changes from month to month makes the computations all the more difficult. Even many who accept Milton Friedman's statement that inflation is a monetary phenomenon do not understand what inflation is.

An accurate inflation number is a number that cannot be captured by averaging costs or by averaging the cost times the quantity of goods purchased. The cost of bread is much different than the nominal price of that bread. Goods have time and place utility. The fellow who drives home from work only to have his wife tell him to drive back to the store to buy bread pays a much higher price than does his neighbor who gets a cell phone call from his wife before he passes the store. The third neighbor, a careful shopper, who has bread enough to last until "shopping day", buys his bread a few days later, again at a much lower total price. The next neighbor, who has time on his hands and who values the exercise pays, a different price when he rides his bike to the store. If he substitutes bike rides for a membership at the club, he may even "make money" when he goes for bread.

Today, tomorrow and the next day, there will be billions if not trillions of instances, where cell phone calls, emails, Internet transactions, search inquiries, instant messages or other communications, will dramatically reduce the total cost of billions if not trillions of transactions. Put another way, in a large number of instances, an extremely low cost electronic event or an electronic event in combination with another action will be substituted for another far more expensive transaction. Even the cost of "Hello, how are you?" has been dramatically reduced.

As far as the housing and loan data go, Professor Perry has provided much data to show that the housing price market is not nearly as bad as the talk. In one instance he showed that house prices have risen in all 22 right to work states. The Shiller-Case index is weighted heavily by big city locations which experienced huge run ups in housing prices and then huge declines. The average home owner is not directly affected by the fact that a Las Vegas condo climbed in value from $400,000 in 2000 to $1.6 million in 2005. Neither has he been directly affected by the huge fall to $800,000 over the past 3 years. I made this example but the numbers represent reality without being precise.

Condo prices are more volatile than home prices, second home locations are more volatile than first home locations and resort locations are even more volatile. A condo in a resort area or a home in a city with building restrictions is a very volatile asset. The average home in the average community has not been nearly so volatile. Furthermore, the data show that plenty of money is available to those who have good credit and money to pay down on a home in the average community. Any lender worth his salt will think twice about lending even 80% on an $800,000 condo which was valued at only $400,000 8 years ago in a market filled with vacant properties.

In other posts, Professor Perry has shown that unemployment is low, interest costs are low and the cost of food and fuel relative to disposable income is still low. He has shown that new home construction has declined while population continues to grow (particularly in the 22 right to work states). He has even shown data and market forecast that suggest the probability of a 2008 recession has fallen to a low probability. I do not recall if the Professor has called a bottom in the housing market but he has definitely shown that the conditions are ripe for house appreciation.


Post a Comment

<< Home