Bad — But Better Than What’s Coming

Talk about diminished expectations. This morning’s estimate of 1.4% Q4 GDP growth is being hailed as a pleasant surprise. Which is odd, considering that for most of the past century a number this low would have been seen as weak enough to require emergency action.

And that’s just the headline number. Dig a little deeper and the picture — at least when viewed through a non-Keynesian lens — is of a system in crisis. Consider:

Corporate profits are, as today’s Bloomberg puts it, sliding.

Meanwhile (also from Bloomberg),

A firm labor market and low inflation encourage households to keep shopping. Today’s fourth-quarter growth figure reflected more spending on services, particularly on recreation and transportation. “It’s really U.S. consumers who are powering the global economy forward at this point,” said Gus Faucher, an economist at PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in Pittsburgh.

But if companies are…


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