Self-fulfilling recession

Never in my memory has the question of whether we're entering a recession gotten so much attention, both in the press and on Wall Street. At this point the conventional wisdom is that a recession has either arrived or is about to. Certainly, there's plenty of evidence pointing in that direction - tomorrow's employment report is expected to be dismal - and yet Business Week's Chris Farrell suggests that the half-filled glass crowd is getting shunted aside.

The federal government's fiscal stimulus is coming. The Federal Reserve Board is aggressively easing interest rates. Exports are flourishing. The agricultural sector is booming. Inventories are well-contained. While the 7% of inflation-adjusted gross domestic product made up by housing and autos declined by nearly 12% over the past year, the segments of the economy that make up the remaining 93% of real gross domestic product rose at a healthy 3.8%, calculates James W. Paulson, chief investment officer at Wells Capital Management. "Sensitivity to signs of economic weakness have been magnified while evidence to the contrary is often ignored," he says.


It isn't hard to imagine that negative economic news can eventually turn into something of a vicious cycle. That seems to be an implication of “Consumer Sentiment, the Economy, and the News Media,” by Mark Doms of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Norman Morin of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The scholars delved into how consumers may be influenced not only by the content of the news stories they come across but also by the way the media cover the economy. For instance, note the authors, the headline "Recession Possible" has a bigger impact than an article entitled "Economic Conference Presents Diverse Views." And for better or worse, we're getting a lot of headlines with the R-word featured prominently—such as this one.

As Farrell points out, you can’t talk a strong economy into a weak one. But when you’re on the bubble, as is probably the case right now, it won’t take many scary and exaggerated headlines to push things over the edge.

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
Socal housing market going nowhere fast
Amazon keeps pushing for faster L.A. delivery
Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Further fallout from airport shootings
Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
Recent stories:
Letter from Down Under: Welcome to the Homogenocene
One last Florida photo
Signs of Saturday: No refund
'I Am Woman,' hear them roar
Bobcat crossing

New at LA Observed
On the Media Page
Go to Media

On the Politics Page
Go to Politics
Arts and culture

Sign up for daily email from LA Observed

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
LA Observed on Twitter and Facebook