top of page

Austerity Kills GDP

By Don Schreiber, Jr. – WBI Founder and CEO

Jim Edwards of Business Insider published a strong piece on Europe’s emerging recession. We suggest a careful read of his analysis and conclusions driven by last week’s dire industrial production releases, which confirm the recession outlook. Even more troubling is coincident white papers by The Institute of International Finance and Oxford Economics crediting Europe’s post-Financial Crisis decision to pursue austerity instead of stimulus with permanently damaging Europe’s economic potential. Both publishers independently looked at the difference between actual GDP growth in Europe and “potential” GDP growth before and after the 2008 recession. Further, both studies concluded that Europe’s decision to pursue austerity and budget balancing instead of stimulus created a self-inflicted permanent reduction in actual GDP growth following the crisis. We believe the Fed is making the same mistake by raising interest rates too far and too fast while at the same time shrinking their balance sheet.

The U.S. economy has experienced the most anemic economic recovery from recession in history. And yet the Fed has assumed they can lift rates back to “normal” levels without damaging the economy. We don’t believe their assumptions are correct. The lack of economic growth and momentum limit our economy’s ability to absorb tighter financial conditions without falling into recession. The absence of material inflation with historically low unemployment should be another warning sign of systemic risk and weakness, yet it seems to be largely ignored by central bankers. With their current quantitative tightening policy, we believe the Fed is offsetting the Tax Act fiscal stimulus the economy desperately needs to create a growth cycle that is strong enough to perpetuate itself.

While the U.S. economy has been the healthiest and strongest developed economy in the world, its growth rate is starting to slow. And comparing U.S. growth to weaker European and Asian economies only gives one a sense of comfort until they realize that global economies are on a synchronized path towards recession. Before breathing a sigh of relief because the Fed has recently become more dovish in their tightening commentary, ask yourself why they would flip-flop so quickly because of the Q4 market correction. The Fed typically ignores the markets moves in determining their policy intentions.

The conundrums become more clear when you remember the Fed’s quantitative easing monetary policies were designed to promote consumer spending through a “wealth effect.” These policies infer pumped up asset prices, which make people feel wealthier, driving consumer confidence and spending. Central bankers around the world adopted the same tactics after seeing success in the U.S. Now as central bankers try to back off and normalize policy, they risk letting the hot air out of the asset bubbles they’ve created. As asset prices adjust to tighter monetary policy and recession risk increases, central bankers fear the strong consumer spending cycle they spent a decade promoting will abruptly come to a halt.

Central bankers should be cautious not to implode the recovery cycle they worked so hard to nurture by ignoring the clear warning signs flashing slowing growth, a lack of inflation, and adverse market conditions. It seems the global economies’ most significant problem as we move into 2019 is generating more growth — not less.

Important Information

Past performance does not guarantee future results. The views presented are those of Don Schreiber, Jr. and should not be construed as investment advice. All economic and performance information is historical and not indicative of future results. This is not an offer to buy or sell any security. No security or strategy, including those referred to directly to indirectly in this document, is suitable for all accounts or profitable all of the time and there is always the possibility of loss. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information provided here serves as the receipt of, or as substitute for, personalized investment advice from WBI or from any other investment professional. To the extent that you have any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed to your individual situation, please consult with WBI or the professional advisor of your choosing. This information is compiled from sources believed to be reliable, accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Information pertaining to WBI’s advisory operations, services, and fees is set forth in WBI’s disclosure statement in Part 2A of Form ADV, a copy of which is available upon request.

You are not permitted to publish, transmit, or otherwise reproduce this information, in whole or in part, in any format to any third party without the express written consent of WBI Investments, Inc.


Recent Posts

See All


Unless otherwise indicated all performance is sourced from Bloomberg.


The views presented are those of the authors and webinar or podcast hosts/participants, and should not be construed as investment advice. The authors, podcast participants, webinar hosts, or clients of WBI Investments, LLC (WBI) may own stock discussed in these insights. WBl is an investment adviser in New Jersey. WBl is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration of an investment adviser does not imply any specific level of skill or training and does not constitute an endorsement of the firm by the Commission. WBl only transacts business in states in which it is properly registered or is excluded or exempted from registration. A copy of WBI's current written disclosure brochure filed with the SEC which discusses among other things, WBI's business practices, services and fees, is available through the SEC's website at: This site contains links to third-party websites. WBl does not endorse, approve, certify, or control these websites and does not assume responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of the information located there. Your access to and use of such websites is governed by the terms of use and privacy policies of those sites, and shall be at your own risk. WBI disclaims responsibility for the privacy policies and customer information practices of third-party internet websites.

bottom of page