Elon, Cathie Wood & The Dead Cat Bounce

Cathie Wood
American investor Cathie Wood. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Getty Images
William D. Cohan
July 24, 2022

I know you’re all here for Elon Musk porn, but let me start with a few notes on a far more pressing and widespread concern: whether or not we are in a recession, and whether or not that even matters at all.

The White House is supposedly sweating next week’s G.D.P. data, as well they should, but does it really matter if we’re in an official recession, or not? I don’t think so. If inflation is raging along at 9 percent annually and G.D.P. is in decline, the question is what will the American people actually feel? Higher prices for nearly everything or some amorphous sense that our gross domestic product has fallen two quarters in a row? Hence the Biden administration’s new talking points, previewed in this White House blog post, that notes “there are no fixed rules” for determining a recession.  

What will be far more telling than a secular decline in G.D.P. will be rising unemployment, job cuts at big tech companies or at Wall Street banks, and a general sense that it will be increasingly more difficult to find a job and to avoid being laid off from a job you have. New filings for unemployment claims last week were the highest since November, although not much ink was spilled about this turn of events. As Harry Truman once said, or is said to have said, “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.” So, it seems to me, we’re much closer to the beginning of the long-overdue cycle of economic pain than we are to the end of it. You can’t have more than a decade of risk being mispriced, courtesy of the ZIRP-style policies of our central bank, and expect there to be no consequences, or few consequences. I know everyone wants the pain to be brief, and it’s no fun, but I really don’t see a Fed bailout this time.