Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jim Paulsen's Misleading Comparisons of Economic Recovery Statistics On CNBC

Jim Paulsen of Wells Capital Management was a guest on CNBC this morning.

During the 6AM hour, Paulsen aggressively claimed that the economic recovery of recent months has been far stronger than many believe.

Specifically, Paulsen cited the soon-to-be-released quarterly GDP growth, contending that the resulting first 12 months of recovery would post a +3.3% annualized GDP growth, making it "the strongest in 30 years."

For clarity, thirty years from 2010 takes you back to 1980.

But Paulsen only cited the 'jobless' recoveries of 1991 and 2002-03 for comparison, omitting the Reagan recovery. I'm not a degreed economist, but I know I've read plenty of articles from the likes of Art Laffer and Alan Reynolds which have cited that 1980s recovery as being much stronger than any since.

Paulsen also cited jobs growth, claiming that, on the basis of two months of anemic net job creation, each less than 100,000, that this recovery has seen net new job creation at an earlier point than the prior two recoveries. Again, omitting the Reagan recovery.

A couple of questions occurred to me as I listened to Paulsen's market cheerleading:

-Why was he so obviously omitting any reference to the recovery during Reagan's term, which was well within Paulsen's own "30 year" timeframe?

-Is it fair to compare the recent anemic two months of positive job growth, with no adjustment for jobs lost and government tax money spent via borrowing or printing in the so-called 'stimulus' legislation, not to mention unemployment benefits extensions?

-Are the best and most correct metrics by which to judge economic recoveries the earliest point at which GDP and job growth turn positive?

-What if there is a leveling-off of GDP and job growth early-mid 2011? Does that change Paulsen's contentions?

I find Paulsen's off-the-cuff statements about the unique strength of this economic recovery to ring hollow. There seems to be a lack of appropriate adjustments for many variable which would seem to be important.

Is Paulsen just saying whatever he thinks will motivate the herd of mediocre asset managers who watch CNBC to follow his lead and drive his book's value up?

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