Nominal GDP has to grow close to 5% in order for the economy’s long-term balance to be maintained. Otherwise, employment levels become unsustainable, retail shopping centers unserviceable, automobile production facilities unprofitable, and the economy itself heads towards a new normal where unemployment averages 8 instead of 5%, housing starts total 1.5 instead of 2 million, and domestic auto sales 12, instead of 16 million annual units. Critically in the readjustment process, debts are haircutted via corporate defaults and home foreclosures, and equity P/Es are cut based upon increased risk and substantially lower growth expectations. A virtuous circle of expansion turns into a vicious cycle of recession or low-growth stagnation. Label it what you will, but a modern capitalistic economy based on levered financing and asset appreciation cannot thrive if its “return on capital” or nominal GDP suffers such a significant shock.
...If there are such future political constraints or caps (both domestically and from abroad), then one should recognize that most of the ammunition has been spent stabilizing the financial system, and very little directed towards the real economy in terms of job loss prevention. Where is the political will or wallet now to grant corporate tax breaks for private sector job creation or to even hire new government workers, aside from a minor positive push with military enlistment? In brief, the “new normal” nominal GDP, the future return on our stock of labor and capital investment, will likely be centered closer to 3%, for at least a few years once a recovery is in place beginning in this year’s second half. Diminished capitalistic risk taking and constrained policymaker releveraging will lead to that likely conclusion.
...There is no investment potion for this new environment other than steady income-producing bond and equity investments in companies with strong balance sheets and high dividend yields, as well as selectively chosen emerging market commitments where nominal GDP growth prospects are tilted upward as opposed to gravitating to new lower norms
---Bill Gross, Pimco CEO, August '09 Outlook (My Italics)
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