Friday, March 27, 2009

It's the economy - stupid

Welcome to my first Blog, which appears now because I finally have something to say.

Welcome to my first Blog, which appears now because I finally have something to say.

Why the title – DABbling, well I am one of those “special” people whose initials spell a word in Webster’s Dictionary even though I know my Mother never gave it a thought when she chose my surnames. Webster’s says a dab is a quick light stroke and that dabbling (sp) is to do something superficially. Good definition of a Blog.

In the Belforte household the term “a little dab will do ya” started when I was dating my future wife, trying to impress her by using the commercial jingle for a hair cream that was popular at the time. Later when my son reached the “why Dad” phase I jokingly defined a DAB as a unit of volumetric measure - the length of my left thumb from joint to the tip (1 ½ inches). Some day, when lost for a subject I may tell you how this measure caused a ruckus in a pub in Edinburgh.

Enough introduction, let’s focus on this week’s subject, the recession. More than a year and a half ago I noted an increase in the number of news items appearing on Google and other search sites that were all on the same subject, a decline in manufacturing output, not just in the United States but in several industrialized nations. Quickly this began to spread and the number of negative news reports increased. I decided to create a measure for the health of the manufacturing economy. I call it the DABometer Recession Gauge. And it simply keeps track of the number of positive and negative news items related to the health of the industry.

At first the negative trend (sign of a possible building recession) was gentle, but the trend line steepened in early 2008 and by midyear it was beginning to go asymptotic. By the fourth quarter it plateaued and remained there through the first two months of this year. Simply put there wasn’t any good news. Now the trend line has reversed as there are glimmers of positive news that are causing spikes in the DABometer readings. On the day this Blog was posted it was neutral, equal number of positive and negative, which I consider is good news. Scientific? Not by a long shot, but when I coined the Sliver of Light term, used to identify good news in the industrial laser market I was lucky to find one a week. Now this has increased I am getting a little fussy about what I post, preferring big success stories.

Now here’s my gripe, why is the media so obsessed with negative news? I know there are many answers to this: selling papers, attracting viewers, fostering a political agenda, etc. But it seems that good news about the economy is always modified by the media. A favorite of the network news shows is the so-called Dean of the New York Stock Exchange who always seems prepared for instant analysis of the markets. He has been negative for several months now and with the stock market seeing a double digit increase over the past two weeks he did acknowledged this but modified it by saying, “we’ll have to see if this has legs”. I guess he is afraid he might move the market before he made his deals.

The President has said that we have a long way to go and that there will be bumps, but the actions his administration and the U.S. Congress have taken, and the positive actions by the Group 7 nations are having an effect. Set your politics aside people and look at the bright side. Maybe, just maybe, we are on track for turnaround this year, so why not talk it up. Yes unemployment numbers are up and that worries everyone, but improving housing sales, a more vibrant stock market, increases in bank lending and brighter retail sales are good news. Not great, but I’ll take it because I am sick of the gloom and doom pervading the media.

For a start I recommend a March editorial by fellow editor, Mark Spaulding of Converting Magazine, who says, "What’s the best way to deal with the downturn? Banish negativity.” Way to go Mark