The economic meaning of the term recession is, “A period of economic decline in a Country, characterized by reduced trade and industrial activity, production decline and increased levels of unemployment. It normally lasts between one and two quarters consecutively”, (Tremblay; 2007). In the US, incidences of recession have occurred since 1854. This paper, seeks address the reasons for recession in the US, with reference to the principles of consumer behavior and the firm as a whole. Observers were not expecting an incidence of recession this time round.
Most observers have been persuaded to expect moderate economic growth rates in the US, of about 2 to 3 percent and a moderate inflation of around 2 percent (George. S, 2008). This is due to the fact that the US economy has proved to be the most resilient in the world. They however (the observers), have good reasons to back their predictions; 1. They have placed their hopes on relatively stimulative monetary policy to keep consumption and investment spending up and expect the worst of the housing decline to be over. 2. With stock prices making new highs, some point out that presidential and
stock market cycles are favorable to higher stock prices since investing during 27 months before a US presidential election has proved in the past to be more Profitable than investing during 21 months after elections. In the October 16th issue of Headwinds, 2007 for the US economy, it is explained that macro-economic conditions make it a matter of months before the US economy and the dollar begun to experience some downward pressure (recession). This is probably the time for this recession. The US is the country with the highest gross domestic product (GDP) in the world, with a GDP of $13 trillion . This has however reduced in the recent
past. Employment levels have also declined. Production levels have gone down owing to cut-throat competition from emerging world producers like China and other Asian Countries. An attempt by the households to save more from a given income led to the decrease in actual amount they succeeded to save-paradox of thrift, (Lachman, 2008). Different reasons can however be put forward to explain the causes of this recession; 1) The outgoing administration’s short term reaction that they gave the economy before the 2004 and 2006 elections through a combination of large tax cuts and large increase in military spending.
This ended up being a waste as billions of dollars were spent on a futile war (Trembley, 2007) 2) Record budgetary and current account deficits have severely neutralized the federal monetary policy attitude, because interest rates cannot be reduced substantially for fear of a collapse of the US dollar from the federal budgetary deficits as they are being reigned on. (Lachman, 2008) 3) With all this taking place at the same time that the construction industry is in disarray and housing prices have tapered off or are declining. Be that as it may, it is important to note that home ownership is more widespread than stock ownership; slightly
more than two thirds of Americans own their homes, while less than half own equities. The objective of the households is to maximize utility. By spending more on home ownership than on stocks, utility is attained quickly and it is within the consumers budget space (Ingdahl, 2008). 4) This rules the question of how long the American consumer will keep up the high pace of spending in such a context. During the years of the housing boom, consumer spending was driven by the accumulation of wealth and record consumer indebtedness, most of it in the form of mortgages as the price of houses increased.
Now that the reverse is occurring and banks and other loaners are reclaiming property for unpaid debts, a retrenchment in consumer spending cannot be ruled out (Trembley, 2007). 5) Protectionist push from the Democrat controlled congress, risks putting in jeopardy the flow of capital of about $2 billion a day that the US economy is borrowing from abroad (mainly from China and Japan). Trade frictions between the US and China could force banks to raise interest rates and not lower them. In any case, the banks would not lower the interest rates as expected to make up for the housing crisis (Trembley, 2007).
6) Collapse of one and possibly several major financial institutions under the pressure of bad loans and record foreclosures (take possession of somebody’s property usually because they have not paid back an agreed part of the loan). Particularly at risk is the sum $2. 5 trillion mountain debt concentrated in sub primes and loans. One major sub prime lender, (New Century Financial) filed for bankruptcy protection. Others are likely to follow suite because 2007 was the year when a large number of sub prime real estate locus had to be renegotiated at higher interest rates. Foreclosures rate is bound to shoot upwards.
This will culminate in the next few years into a financial hurricane (Trembley, 2007). 7) The seventh and final reason is a geopolitical factor. The outgoing US administration has created some tension between the US and some countries in the Middle East. The Middle East, is the world’s largest oil producing region. In the coming years, the world economy will have to adjust to a peak in oil production and higher prices after the current lull. Geoplitical mistakes made by the outgoing administration have turned the richest oil producing region into a hot war zone making the US economic situation disastrous (Lachman,2008).
The above listed reasons shed some light on why the US economy could be undergoing some kind of recession. They however do not provide a conclusive explanation or reasons as to why the American economy could be in recession. Unlike other forecasts, one can only tell when recession started and ended after it has ended. The determination of recession is left to the National Bureau of Research (Campbell. R. M & Stanley. L. B, 2005). However, it is possible to tell whether or not the economy is in recession by looking at past cases of recession. The great depression was the worst economic slump ever in the U.
S history. It began in 1929 and lasted for close to a decade. Just like a recession, many factors led to the great depression; however, the main cause for the great depression was a combination of the greatly unequal distribution of wealth throughout the 1920’s and the extensive stock market speculation that took place during the latter part of the same decade. Money was distributed disparately between the rich and the middle-class, between industry and agriculture within the United States, and between the U. S and Europe. This imbalance of wealth created an unstable economy.
The excessive speculation in the late 1920’s kept the stock market artificially high, but eventually lead to large market crashes, (Gusmorino, 1996). Almost eighty years later, the U. S might be facing the same situation though not as severe as it was then. Wealth disparities are all over the world today. Although the worst cases are not experienced in America, cases of unequal distribution of wealth are still in America. As mentioned earlier, the American household does not invest much on stocks but in acquisition of homes. Speculations in the stock market are relatively high though not as high as it was then.
It is not easy to conclude that the American economy is in recession. Whether or not there is a recession, depends on both on actual economic activity and economic analysis in the future. The facts as they are right now, show that the American economy is in recession. REFERENCES. Campbell, R. M. & Stanley, L. B. (2005). Economics: Principles, Problems, and Policies. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional. Gusmorino, P. A. (1996). Main causes of the Great Depression. Washington: Planet Press George, S. (2008). The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of
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