Despite weeks and weeks of pundits parading in front of the financial media proclaiming that the U.S. economy is headed for another recession, I still don’t see it in the data.
That’s why I’m not afraid to offer a dissenting voice. You’ll recall, in recent weeks I took a contrarian stance and proclaimed there’s no way another recession was knocking on our doorstep.
To try to convince you of the same, I shared a bevy of economic statistics. Specifically, the latest readings of railcar loadings, the Federal Reserve’s industrial production index, the Baltic Dry index, the Cass Freight Index and the American Trucking Association’s Tonnage Index.
Unfortunately, it seems like that wasn’t enough. Based on your comments, many of you remain firmly planted in the gloom-and-doom camp.
And that’s a shame. Because the data keeps on piling up to suggest that we’re not headed for another slowdown.
Today, I’m going to share five more compelling stats with you… and also let you know why this week could prove pivotal in the recession debate.
So let’s get to it…
Slow Growth, But No Recession
I’ll be the first to concede that the U.S. economy isn’t a poster child for growth.
The economy only grew at an annual rate of 1.3% in the second quarter. But let’s face it… slow growth is better than no growth.
What’s more, as these five statistics reveal, the economic picture actually appears to be improving, not deteriorating:
~ Recession-Busting Stat #1: Auto Makers Hit the Accelerator in September
In the beginning of the month, new car manufacturers provided early indications of improvements in consumer spending.
General Motors (NYSE: GM) reported a 19.8% surge in U.S. sales to 207,145 cars.
Chrysler Group, which is now controlled by Italy’s Fiat (FIATY.PK), reported a 27% jump in September U.S. sales to 127,334 cars.
And Volkswagen (VLKAY.PK) checked-in with a 36% increase in U.S. sales to 27,036 cars.
So with no Cash-for-Clunkers Program to artificially create demand, those statistics are legit and run counter to expected consumer behavior during recessionary times. Just saying.
~ Recession-Busting Stat #2: Ringing the Retail Registers
It turns out that automobiles weren’t the only thing consumers were buying in September. The U.S. Census Bureau’s monthly retail sales report revealed a 7.9% increase, year-over-year.
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That marks the largest year-over-year increase since 1999. And the third-highest reading since 1993, according to Bespoke Investment Group. Again, not exactly indicative of recessionary times.
~ Recession-Busting Stat #3: ISM Manufacturing Index Above 50 for Twenty-Sixth Month
Producers are sending signals that the economy isn’t headed for another recession.
Case in point: The September reading of the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing index rose to 51.6% from 50.6% in August, marking 26 consecutive months above 50.
The index is a diffusion survey, which is calculated by asking respondents to measure the change in new orders, production, employment, supplier deliveries and inventories from the previous month.
A reading above 50 indicates expansion. And while the latest reading is certainly close to that key threshold, it’s nowhere near the lows hit during the last recession – around 35.
~ Recession-Busting Stat #4: Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization Hit Three-Year Highs
The latest data out of the Federal Reserve also proves that manufacturing activity isn’t declining.
The September readings for industrial production and capacity utilization increased to their highest levels since Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008 – at 94.2 and 77.4, respectively.
If we were headed for another recession, these readings should be falling, not rising.
~ Recession-Busting Stat #5: Philly Manufacturing on a Roll
The most recent manufacturing report – released last week by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia – toasted expectations.
The manufacturing index rose to 8.7 in October from -17.5 in September. And economists were only expecting the index to “improve” to -10.
Do we need further proof that there’s too much gloom and doom in the market?
The Week Ahead in Economic Data
I’ll concede that we don’t have definitive proof (yet) that the U.S. economy is picking up a head of steam. But the current trends are certainly positive.
Should they continue, everyone will finally be enlightened to the fact that the United States is not headed for another recession. And this week is an important week in that respect.
We’re about to get inundated with a wave of new economic data. Take a look:
Bottom line: If the positive trends persist in this week’s batch of economic data, we should be able to put the recession talk to bed, once and for all. And that would certainly be a positive development for the stock market.
Ahead of the tape,