David Rosenberg, former chief economist at Merrill Lynch, says the green shoots everyone's looking for are more likely to mature as dandelions than hardy perennials.
"The only thing holding the (U.S.) economy together, and the capital markets, for that matter, is a lot of tape and glue from the federal government," Rosenberg told the Globe and Mail.
“It’s very rare that you embark on a sustained bull market when the economy is extremely fragile,” Rosenberg notes.
For three years, Rosenberg has warned of a widening gulf between consumer spending and income. Now rising unemployment is adding to overleveraged consumers’ woes.
Rosenberg says that until housing and employment recover, consumers aren’t going to start spending again — and without consumer spending, the economy will remain stagnant.
That doesn't mean that we're not going to get “the odd flashy GDP quarter or bear market rally,” Rosenberg says.
“You can trade these bear-market rallies. You can rent them, but you can't own them.”
Northern Trust investment strategist Jim McDonald says evidence that the banking system is creating new loans without help from the government will signal a true market recovery.
"To get U.S. stocks to move ahead we need to have evidence that economic growth is going to benefit from additional consumer spending and we also need signs that the credit markets are repairing," McDonald told The Wall Street Journal.
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