Saturday, March 7, 2009

If The Recession Was A Three Act Play ...

Little thought experiment.

If I was a writer and I was creating this recession on paper, where would our current situation be?

Or, how much longer before we get the Hollywood, feel-good ending that we feel we deserve. How much longer before the credits roll and we can exit the dark theatre and get on with our lives?

So far, I would venture to say that we are done with the first 30 minutes.

Act 1.

The protagonists have been established (Wall Street, Lenders, the Federal Reserve, home buyers etc) and the dramatic situation is definitely known. All the characters know their roles in the creating the recession and the audience is finding out the backstory of our characters as the "script" fleshes them out.

I am crossing my fingers that all the characters have been introduced. I am sure the average person knows more about Wall Street financing villains or the subprime, CDO, CMBS or other esoteric monsters than they had ever hoped to understand.

I know my patience at learning all the horrible things in the economy is coming to an end.

Which brings us to

Act 2.

The ending has been visualized, the characters know their purpose and encounter obstacles that prevent the recession from ending.

The stimulus could save us except for ...
If only the Fed could rid of the world of ... we would be saved.
If only the American public could learn to love again and consume like this never happened ...

This part of the play usually ends when all hope has been lost and the characters encounter their lowest points.

The problem in knowing when this happens is that this play has too many twists in it. Every time it feels like the bottom, another blow is dealt to our hero.

The villains strike again, James Bond is again captured and imprisoned, there was another terrorist plot for Jack Bauer to solve and the CTU has been raided ... again.

There is no lowest point, which is where I feel we are right now. Every day seems worse than the last and the audience is starting to face despair fatigue.

Act 3

The recession ends and things go back to normal. Calm, equilibrium, our hero marries the princess to live happily ever after. The band has gotten back together and put on that "one last show" and all is forgiven.

Yeah, it does not feel like we are anywhere near here.

Maybe we don't have a movie or a play.

Maybe we have a mini-series.

Maybe we are only starting season two, with the election of 2008 being the climax.


Mike S. said...

This was from Nate Silver's blog:

The worst news is that we appear to be in only the second of five stages of grieving -- and you can pretty much project the path the markets will take until the healing process completes itself.

1. Denial (Nov 2007 - Sept. 2008) : Markets surprisingly resilient in face of recessionary pressures.

2. Anger (Sept. 2008 - present): Wall Street throws tantrum; markets crash.

3. Bargaining (Summer 2009?): Bear market rally.

4. Depression (Fall-Winter 2009?): Dow gives back most of gains from rally (and then some, perhaps); sits near 15-year lows as volatility and volumes decrease.

5. Acceptance (2010?): Market finally capitulates; Dow rebounds to an historically sustainable valuation of perhaps 9,000 points.

Thomas Galvin said...

Very interesting.
I am not sure if past recessions behaved in this manner.

With my play analogy, we can anxiously await the deus ex machina to solve all our problems.

I am not a very religious person, so I am kinda hoping it isn't the rapture.