Since the start of the year, the debate over the state of the U.S. economy seems to escalate by the day. The ongoing subprime mortgage mess, the resultant credit crunch and daily stories about housing defaults, escalating oil prices and lousy corporate earnings only seem to further fuel the debate.
Of course, we all see the government reports and analyst research notes that seem to contradict one another from one day to the next – and sometimes from one hour to the next.
So here at Money Morning, we thought we’d take a bit of a different approach, and use some of the social indicators that we’ve come across to develop a “Top 10 List” of reasons the U.S. economy may have achieved a new market bottom – though perhaps it’s not yet the ultimate market bottom.
Admittedly, this list is absolutely tongue in cheek. But social indicators do play a huge role in successful investing, even though the scholarly types often consider them little more than slightly disguised voodoo.
Nevertheless, heres our Top 10 List:
10. Although its company stock is down 14% year-to-date, there are still 172 Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) employees for every citizen of Vatican City.
9. The world’s three richest men – Warren Buffett ($62 billion), Carlos Slim Helu ($60 billion) and Bill Gates ($58 billion) – are worth as much as the combined gross domestic product (GDP) of the world’s 40 poorest countries.
8. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide Financial Corp. (CFC), and former executives Charles O. “Chuck” Prince III who was ousted from Citigroup Inc. (C) and E. Stanley “Stan” O’Neal of Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. (MER), can still make house payments.
7. Upscale hedge fund managers still prefer Mercedes SUVs for their nannies.
6. Weathermen have a better predictive record than economists.
5. History shows that recessions wipe out between 20% and 25% of financial assets. Even with the almost $300 billion in financial write-downs we’ve seen so far, we’re still at a mere 5% of the total (depending on which numbers you believe).
4. Alan Greenspan reportedly makes more money per speech now than he did annually as chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve.
3. U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke still has a job.
2. As of the close yesterday (Wednesday), the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has only fallen 13% from its intraday peak on Oct. 11, 2007. Like a barber-school trainee, recessions typically clip 25%-30% off the top.
And the number-one reason we haven’t reached the bottom yet:
1. BusinessWeek has yet to publish a successor issue to their infamous Aug. 13, 1979 cover story that predicted “The Death of Equities.” That story preceded one of the greatest bull market runs in history.