The Tell: U.S. businesses need a $2 trillion bailout to avoid a possible ‘global depression’, says Guggenheim’s Minerd

The economic pain caused by the continuing coronavirus epidemic could be even worse than the Great Financial Crisis.

That’s according to Scott Minerd, global chief investment officer at Guggenheim Investments, who estimated in a Tuesday research note that the Chinese economy is contracting at a 15% annual rate, while the European economy “is probably in a fairly severe recession.”

“If the United States is not already in a recession, it will enter one shortly,” Minerd wrote. “While shutting down restaurants, schools and major events, a lot of people are going to be without a paycheck—people who probably don’t have $500 of savings in the bank—and they won’t be able to cover next month’s rent, their car payment, and their living expenses. Given this dynamic I see this getting much worse.”

“The risk is that for the first time since the 1930s we are facing the possibility of a downward spiral into something akin to a global recession,” he added. “We have at least a 10% to 20% chance that that’s the path we are on if policy makers don’t act quickly.”

Minerd argued that Washington, D.C. needs to think big to avoid this fate, writing that “we desperately need” programs similar to the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) approved by Congress in 2008, which made available $700 billion to the Treasury Department to buy assets from banks whose values were deeply depressed by the bursting of a bubble in real estate and the ensuing financial crisis.

This time around, however, the U.S. economy will need a much bigger fund—upward of $2 trillion—to rescue “many industries,” rather than just the banks, Minerd wrote, as businesses ranging from airlines to resorts and retailers face the prospect of failure if containing the virus requires continued aggressive social-distancing measures.

A similar proposal was offered Monday by The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, which argued that the Federal Reserve should create a lending facility whereby businesses could borrow to keep their operations afloat until more normal economic activity resumes.

Markets may be soothed by such extreme measures, given the chilly reception they’ve given to the Federal Reserve’s stimulus efforts, including a reduction of the fed-funds rate to between 0% and 0.25% and relaunching a program of debt purchases aimed at reducing long-term interest rates. Over the past month, the Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +5.20%,

the S&P 500 index

SPX, +6.00%

 and the Nasdaq Composite Index

COMP, +6.23%

 have declined more than 25%.

Such a fund would have to be capitalized with money appropriated by Congress, and “the borrowers would have to present good collateral (physical assets, accounts receivable and the like) and have been solvent before the viral panic took hold,” the Journal said.

Politicians may be wary of taking such steps, given the unpopularity of last decade’s bank bailout program, even as proponents, like Minerd argue that the government ultimately recouped more than the initial amount lent, by the time TARP was wound down in 2014.

Better Markets, a nonprofit organization founded after the financial crisis to advocate for public interest in financial markets, tweeted on Tuesday that any such program should come with strict conditions.

Other critics of past bailouts, like Matt Stoller of the American Economic Liberties Project have argued that shareholders of bailed out companies should not benefit from any bailout, and that affected companies should face restrictions on lobbying and mergers and acquisitions as well.

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