Sam Zell, the billionaire investor who correctly predicted a top in the last commercial real-estate cycle, says the U.S. is heading toward recession because of global economic pressures.
“I’m not being pessimistic, I’m being realistic,” he said last week at a real-estate conference in New York. The U.S. economy is now “in the ninth inning.”
He said those problems include low oil prices, falling import demand from emerging economies, volatile financial markets, deflation, possible negative interest rates and currency exchange rate fluctuations, according to The Wall Street Journal
In 2012, Zell warned that companies were delaying projects and other capital expenditures, indicating a lack of confidence in the economy. He also said the government’s quantitative-easing economic stimulus program had created an excess flow of capital, where too much capital was chasing after too few opportunities,” the newspaper reported.
Albert Edwards, the Société Générale strategist who forecasts the S&P 500 will plunge 75 percent from last year’s record high, also says a shrinking economy can’t be avoided because companies are cutting back on spending as their profits get squeezed by higher labor costs.
“Newly released U.S. whole economy profits data show a gut-wrenching slump,” he said in an April 7 report to clients of the Paris-based bank
. “Whole economy profits never normally fall this deeply without a recession unfolding.”
National income accounts data
provide a picture of the profitability for the whole economy, including companies that aren’t publicly traded. Edwards is most alarmed at how quickly profits are shrinking in the U.S.
“Whole economy profits tend to be a leading indicator of the business investment cycle,” he said. “Historically, all recessions are effectively caused by slumps in business investment driven by a profits downturn.”
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