There is far more to worry about in United States economic data than the American media is admitting. Disturbingly news outlets are ignoring some serious danger signs in U.S economic activity.
Even though recession is unlikely in the United States in the near future, economic upheaval is. The volatile nature of the current U.S. economy is a potential threat to a wide variety of investments including stocks and bonds.
Some Worrying Trends in the U.S. Economy that Investors and Entrepreneur’s should pay attention to include:
Even though the overall American stock market is in good shape there are more than a few grossly overpriced equities on Wall Street.
The poster child for overpriced American stocks is Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) which was trading at $884.67 (€833.53) on April 13, 2017. Another overpriced retailer is the club store operator Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ: COST) which was trading at $168.84 (€159.08) a share on the same day. Finally there’s Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA), Elon Musk’s car and battery company which was trading at $304 (€286.43) a share on April 13 even though it posted a loss of $674.91 million (€635.9 million) and a “profit margin” of -5.31 for the last quarter of 2016.
There is no overall bubble in the stock market, but there is a bubble in some sectors including tech and retail that should worry investors. Collapse of those stocks might lead to a bear market, or keep money away from certain segments for a long time.
Used Car Prices
After a home the most valuable asset most Americans own is their vehicle or vehicles. Disturbingly the value of those assets is about to collapse.
Morgan Stanley analysts predicted that used car prices in America are about to fall by 50%. If that prediction comes true, it will play havoc on the auto industry one of the few success stories in American manufacturing. Preowned vehicles are already falling in the US they fell by 4% in 2016, Bloomberg reported.
An obvious effect of a glut of used cars will be to cut into automakers profits. The car companies will have to offer steep discounts and deals to be competitive with used vehicles. The demand for lower priced new vehicles might collapse as lots fill with cheaper higher end used vehicles.
Demand for some used vehicles might collapse in coming years because of more technologically advanced new models. New tech that will reduce demand for used cars might include electric vehicles and self-driving cars.
The Real Estate Bubble
The United States is in the midst of several regional real estate bubbles that are already damaging the social fabric in some areas.
The worst situation is in the San Francisco Bay area. The median home price in the region is $1.25 million (€1.18 million); which means only 41% of doctors and less than one percent (.4%) of teachers can afford to buy a house there, CBS News reported. The average income for a doctor in the United States is $208,000 (€195,976.83) a year, which is several times what the average American takes home annually.
One result of this is that many people cannot afford homes in the Bay Area and are simply moving away. Homelessness has become epidemic in some areas, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors even asked California Governor Jerry Brown to declare the problem a state emergency, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Similar real estate bubbles have been reported in Los Angeles, Brooklyn and Denver. The situation is scary because it bears an eerie similarity to the Florida land boom of the 1920s which preceded the Great Depression in the United States. As with the Florida land boom; and the 2000-2008 real estate bubble, the price increases are driven by flippers and speculators including many foreigners.
Regional real estate bubbles are dangerous because they can lead to large amounts of underwater property. That is real estate which is unsellable because the mortgage far exceeds the actual value. Such assets put the institutions that underwrite the mortgages in danger because investments are backed by assets that do not exist.
The situation is made worse by the depressed state of real estate in some other areas of the country. Real estate prices in many cities such as Detroit are still far below their 2007 highs.
The Pension Crisis
Many American state and municipal governments are facing a serious pension crisis. There is no money to cover pensions that millions of retired government workers rely upon for survival.
The city of Chicago, America’s third largest, has accumulated $32.92 billion (€31.02 billion) in unfunded pensions, Market Mad House reported. That forced the City Government to spend $1.7 billion (€1.6 billion) in property tax revenues to cover pension costs in 2015.
State and local governments throughout the nation owe $1.75 trillion (€1.65 trillion) in unfunded pensions. Governments in one state alone; Illinois where Chicago is, have accumulated $111 billion (€104.58 billion) to $193 billion (€181.84 billion) in unfunded pension obligations.
Since governments are legally and morally obligated to pay the pensions, that means they’ll have to start cutting government services to cover the obligations. Some governments have already cut budgets to schools, police and libraries to get money for pensions.
An even more grotesque aspect of the situation is that the pensions are the only income that some elderly people have. Without pensions many of those people will fall into poverty because they did not save for retirees. Others may not even be covered by America’s Social Security system because they did not pay into it.
Collapse of the public pension system would seriously damage U.S. governments because many governments use large pensions to attract workers. Without pensions many government workers will simply leave for more lucrative private sector work. Another aspect to the crisis is that some government employees; such as police officers in San Jose, California, are retiring early to get pensions they think will vanish later on.
Some effects of the pension crisis might be a collapse in real estate value as pensioners sell homes to get money. Another will be decreased economic activity because older people will have less money to spend.
The Retirement Crisis
A major threat to long-prosperity in the United States would be tens of millions of senior citizens with no income beyond Social Security (federal basic income for the elderly).
The average Social Security payment in the United States is $1,350 (€1,271.96) a month or $16,000 (€15,075.14) a year income which is close to the federal poverty level. That’s less than half the income for the average single American in 2016 which was $35,876 (€33,802.23) a year.
Since 56% of Americans admitted to having less than $10,000 (€9,421.96) and saved for retirement and pensions are unfunded, a major decrease in economic activity is likely. The decrease will occur because 56% of Americans admit to having saved less than $10,000 (€9,421.96) for retirement, so their incomes will be cut in half when they stop working.
The crisis will hit home over the next few years as 76 million baby boomers (persons born between 1945 and 1965) retire. If nothing is done, the United States might see the greatest drop off in economic activity since the Great Depression devastating communities across the country.
The United States economy is far more volatile than most people realize. The country faces a major decline in economic activity that might destroy the value of a great many investments.