불황을 예측하는 다양한 기법들게시: 02/11/2014
얼마전 뵌 교수님으로부터 곧 닥칠 IMF에 준하는 불경기에 미리미리 대비하라는 이야기를 듣고, 현금성 자산을 좀더 보유해야 겠다는 일념 하에 이리저리 자산 포트폴리오를 일부 변경하고 있는 중이다.
그러던 중 접하게 된 business insider 한토막이 이러한 확신을 더욱 강하게 해 버렸다.
해외 매체들을 좀더 자주 접하게 되며 드는 생각은 언제부턴가 왜 국내매체에는 이와 같은 소식이 잘 전해지지 않을까 하는 것이다.
미래를 예측하는 모델은 날로 정교화 되고 있지만, 그것에 영향을 미치는 요인들이 더 무궁무진해지고 있으므로 어느 정도 완성도 있는 미래 예측 모델의 완성은 영원히 불가능할 것이라 보인다. 또한, 이러한 예측 모델 역시 또 하나의 비즈니스 아이템이 되어 가며 그 예측을 더욱 어렵게 할 것 같다.
일도 관계도 쉼도 무언가 감추거나 가려진 것이 있으면 안 되는 것 같다. 더욱 눈과 귀를 열고 사는 것도 앞으로 살아가는데 반드시 지켜내야 할 중요한 자기 약속일 필요를 있음을 새긴다.
The State Of The 4 Official Recession Indicators
Official recession calls are the responsibility of the NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee, which is understandably vague about the specific indicators on which they base their decisions. This committee statement is about as close as they get to identifying their method.
There is, however, a general belief that there are four big indicators that the committee weighs heavily in their cycle identification process. They are:
- Industrial Production
- Real Personal Income (excluding transfer payments)
- Nonfarm Employment
- Real Retail Sales (a timelier substitute for Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales)
The Latest Indicator Data
The January monthly Nonfarm Employment increased by 113K, substantially below the general expectation of 185K or more new jobs. For additional discussion of the employment situation, see my latest update here. For a rosier alternative to the latest jobs number, which comes from the BLS’s monthly Employment Survey, the Household Survey (a joint effort of the BLS and the Census Bureau) reported a 638K increase in civilian employment age 16 and over, a number that gets trimmed to 616K after the BLS applies its “annual adjustment to the population controls.” For an overview of these “odd couple” surveys over the past fifty years, see my commentary here.
Growth in Nonfarm Employment has been in frustratingly slow during the economic recovery, but the month-over-month change has been positive since August 2010. Slow growth is always preferable to contraction.
The chart and table below illustrate the performance of the Big Four and simple average of the four since the end of the Great Recession. The data points show the percent cumulative percent change from a zero starting point for June 2009. The latest data point is for the 55th month. In addition to the four indicators, I’ve included an average of the four, which, as we can see, was influenced by the anomaly in the Personal Income tax management strategy at the end of last year with a ripple effect in the opening months of this year.
Current Assessment and Outlook
The overall picture of the US economy remains one of a ploddingly slow recovery from the Great Recession. As we can see in the illustration of the average of the Big Four off its all-time high since 2007, the rate of post-trough growth has been slower since February of 2012, although the 2012 end-of-year tax-strategy has obscured overall trend slope over the past two years. On a more hopeful note, the slope from last July through November showed encouraging improvement, although since December the numbers have been collectively flat.
My next update will cover the all-important February Nonfarm Payrolls report for January.
Background Analysis: The Big Four Indicators and Recessions
The charts above don’t show us the individual behavior of the Big Four leading up to the 2007 recession. To achieve that goal, I’ve plotted the same data using a “percent off high” technique. In other words, I show successive new highs as zero and the cumulative percent declines of months that aren’t new highs. The advantage of this approach is that it helps us visualize declines more clearly and to compare the depth of declines for each indicator and across time (e.g., the short 2001 recession versus the Great Recession). Here is my own four-pack showing the indicators with this technique.
Now let’s examine the behavior of these indicators across time. The first chart below graphs the period from 2000 to the present, thereby showing us the behavior of the four indicators before and after the two most recent recessions. Rather than having four separate charts, I’ve created an overlay to help us evaluate the relative behavior of the indicators at the cycle peaks and troughs. (See my note below on recession boundaries).
The chart above is an excellent starting point for evaluating the relevance of the four indicators in the context of two very different recessions. In both cases, the bounce in Industrial Production matches the NBER trough while Employment and Personal Incomes lagged in their respective reversals.
As for the start of these two 21st century recessions, the indicator declines are less uniform in their behavior. We can see, however, that Employment and Personal Income were laggards in the declines.
Now let’s look at the 1972-1985 period, which included three recessions — the savage 16-month Oil Embargo recession of 1973-1975 and the double dip of 1980 and 1981-1982 (6-months and 16-months, respectively).
And finally, for sharp-eyed readers who can don’t mind squinting at a lot of data, here’s a cluttered chart from 1959 to the present. That is the earliest date for which all four indicators are available. The main lesson of this chart is the diverse patterns and volatility across time for these indicators. For example, retail sales and industrial production are far more volatile than employment and income.
History tells us the brief periods of contraction are not uncommon, as we can see in this big picture since 1959, the same chart as the one above, but showing the average of the four rather than the individual indicators.
The chart clearly illustrates the savagery of the last recession. It was much deeper than the closest contender in this timeframe, the 1973-1975 Oil Embargo recession. While we’ve yet to set new highs, the trend has collectively been upward, although we have that strange anomaly caused by the late 2012 tax-planning strategy that impacted the Personal Income.
Here is a close-up of the average since 2000.
Appendix: Chart Gallery with Notes
Each of the four major indicators discussed in this article are illustrated below in three different data manipulations:
- A log scale plotting of the data series to ensure that distances on the vertical axis reflect true relative growth. This adjustment is particularly important for data series that have changed significantly over time.
- A year-over-year representation to help, among other things, identify broader trends over the years.
- A percent-off-high manipulation, which is particularly useful for identifying trend behavior and secular volatility.
The US Industrial Production Index (INDPRO) is the oldest of the four indicators, stretching back to 1919. The log scale of the first chart is particularly useful in showing the correlation between this indicator and early 20th century recessions.
Real Personal Income Less Transfer Payments
This data series is computed as by taking Personal Income (PI) less Personal Current Transfer Receipts (PCTR) and deflated using the Personal Consumption Expenditure Price Index (PCEPI). I’ve chained the data to the latest price index value.
The “Tax Planning Strategies” annotation refers to shifting income into the current year to avoid a real or expected tax increase.
For a visual sense of the relative size of Personal Income and Transfer Receipts (Social Security, etc.), here is stacked area chart of nominal values. Many people assume that Transfer Receipts (Payments) are a larger source of income than they really are.
Total Nonfarm Employees
There are many ways to plot employment. The one referenced by the Federal Reserve researchers as one of the NBER indicators is Total Nonfarm Employees (PAYEMS).
Real Retail Sales
This indicator is a splicing of the discontinued retail sales series (RETAIL, discontinued in April 2001) spliced with the Retail and Food Services Sales (RSAFS) and deflated by the Consumer Price Index (CPIAUCSL). I used a splice point of January 1995 because that was date mentioned in the FRED notes. My experiments with other splice techniques (e.g., 1992, 2001 or using an average of the overlapping years) didn’t make a meaningful difference in the behavior of the indicator in proximity to recessions. I’ve chained the data to the latest CPI value.
Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales
This indicator is a splice of two seasonally adjusted series tracked by the BEA. The 1967-1996 component is SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) based and the 1997-present is NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) based. The data are available from the BEA website. See Section 0 – Real Inventories and Sales and look for Tables 2AU and 2BU. The FRED economists use the Real Retail Sales above for their four-pack. However, ECRI appears to use this series as their key indicator for sales. Note that the Manufacturing and Trade Sales data is updated monthly with the BEA’s Personal Consumption and Expenditures release, but the numbers lag by one month from the other PCE data.
Note: I represent recessions as the peak month through the month preceding the trough to highlight the recessions in the charts above. For example, the NBER dates the last cycle peak as December 2007, the trough as June 2009 and the duration as 18 months. The “Peak through the Period preceding the Trough” series is the one FRED uses in its monthly charts, as explained in the FRED FAQs illustrated in this Industrial Production chart.