Sunday, December 28, 2008

The hottest trend in 2009: declaring bankruptcy

Bankruptcy filings are on the rise. With the ongoing destruction of wealth and employment, the number of consumers that file for bankruptcy protection is surging and likely to rise further. And consumers are beating down retail businesses. Increased consumer saving more is not necessarily a bad thing, unless one is a retailer; on weak consumer demand, 2009 is expected to bring further retail bankruptcies.

Here are some excerpts from a few of today's bankruptcy articles.

Post-Christmas Sales May Not Help Retailers Salvage Holidays:
Retailers counting on post-Christmas sales to spruce up the sluggish holiday season may be disappointed as tapped-out shoppers turn their noses up at discounts of 70 percent or more.

More than a dozen retailers, including electronics chain Circuit City, have sought bankruptcy protection this year as the credit squeeze and the U.S. recession drained sales. The holiday results indicate possible consolidation and further bankruptcy filings, said Gilbert Harrison, chief executive officer of retail advisory firm Financo Inc.
Retailers Brace for Major Change:
Other retailers are saying they will trim inventory and reduce the number of suppliers. That, in turn, will cause a ripple effect, prompting a number of weaker manufacturers, small brands and underfunded fashion labels to fail. New retail formats and concepts stores are likely to be curtailed in the coming year. And luxury-goods makers already are working to cut the long lead times between orders and store delivery as a way to reduce risk.

"We will have a lot fewer stores by the
middle of 2009," says Nancy Koehn, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. "It's happening very, very quickly because of the financial crisis and the recession."
Mish Shedlock highlights the origins of Chapter 9 (municipal bankruptcy law) and several counties/states that will be affected in Massive Surge In Municipal Bankruptcies Coming:
Given that Florida is ground zero for the housing bust and Florida has no restrictions on filing Chapter 9, I confidently predict several cities or counties in Florida declare bankruptcy.
Rebecca here. Retailers are already running to the courts to file Chapter 7 or Chapter 11.

The chart illustrates the quarterly growth rate of total business bankruptcy filings – Chapter 11 filings + Chapter 7 filings - as reported by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts spanning 2006:3 through 2008:3. In 2008:3 (third quarter of 2008), total business bankruptcy filings surged by 20%, driven by a 50% rise in Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings.

Businesses account for 91% of total Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings, but only 4% of Chapter 7 filings, and accounted for most of the total bankruptcy filings (business + non-business) in 2008:3. But amid the carnage of the housing market, surging energy prices throughout most of the year, and a tanking labor market, non-business bankruptcy filings also surged in 2008.

The chart illustrates the quarterly growth in total bankruptcy filings spanning 1980:4 through 2008:3. The trend in 2008 is clear: consumers and firms alike are increasingly filing for bankruptcy protection. Although most of the third quarter surge is due to business filings, the surge in Chapter 7 filings in the first half of 2008 is not.

Annual Chapter 7 filings increased steadily from 34% in 2007:3 to 48% in 2008:3, and going forward, filings are likely to rise further. Consumers are becoming more and more indebted just to offset the drag on consumption coming from surging energy prices for most of 2008, destruction of housing and equity wealth, tight credit conditions, and the ever weakening labor market conditions (nice article by Mark Thoma).

Rising credit card indebtedness signals that an increasing number of consumer bankruptcy filings are on the horizon. Here is a chart from this article:

Finally, falling prices pose a risk. Falling prices (deflation) can put downward pressure on nominal variables like mortgage rates, car loan rates, and saving rates; it’s already happening. And for those of us with fixed mortgages or car loans - with no means of refinancing - paying off rising real debt may become more difficult, causing even more bankruptcy filings.

One thing is a near-certainty: the serious recession underway is likely to increase bankruptcy filings for businesses, consumers, and municipalities alike, as the labor market and consumer demand continue in reverse.

Rebecca Wilder


  1. Most live confused and hold false beliefs about deflation.

    On Deflation

    Deflation is a purpose-driven process by Central Bankers.

    Whenever Central Bankers raise reserve requirements by banks or raise the price of now money through interest rate rises, Central Bankers engage in deflation.

    The purpose of deflation is to constrict excessive credit in an attempt to gain Efficiency of Money.

    When Chairman Bernanke took the reins of the Federal Reserve, he raised the Fed Funds interest rate many times, thus engaging in deflation.

    On Devaluation and Prices

    Many confuse deflation for devaluation.

    When prices decline because of reduce Efficiency of Money, devaluation happens.

    Price is another word for value.

    Value happens one thing gets expressed in terms of another, say wheat for oil. When one of two things is money, we use the word price.

    When the price of a thing falls, that thing has become devalued through the process of devaluation.

    Rebecca says "Falling prices (deflation) can put downward pressure on nominal variables like mortgage rates, car loan rates, and saving rates".

    Falling prices happen from devaluation, not deflation.

    Falling prices for things in themselves have nothing to do with the rate to rent now cash to be paid with future cash (mortgages, car loans).

    Falling prices happen when men become more productive, more competitive and when money becomes more efficient, as men come to see unsustainable, excess credit.

    On Money

    The Price of Money gets set between the want for now money against future money.

    Money is a commodity and nothing more.

    It's the thing you trade for another thing, say wheat for money. The difference only between wheat and money is that man must depend on the graces of nature to deliver wheat, even with his science of farming, while he can wily print as much money as he thinks he can scam others with until credit relationships break down.

    On Mass Bankruptcies

    The tsunami of bankruptcies forthcoming is arising from the wrong signals sent by the Federal Reserve Central Bank over its monopoly manipulation of the Price of Money.

    Retailers expanded too much through the wrong allocation of rented cash (capital) in too many places where not enough working-aged Americans had sufficient income to pay both debt service and living expenses.

    Once again, Big Government and Government failure has caused a collapse in the economy.

  2. Sorry, but I don't think you can blame all of the mess on the government. They are responding to the out-of-control train-wreck-in-the-making of the financial, insurance, automobile and other private companies who were being corporately greedy. There is enough blame to pass around to almost all of us who, either actively or passively, did nothing to control or stop it. I hate the interference of the government as much as anyone but let us be real.

  3. Yes, you should apologize.

    The Political Class of Politicians, Corporatist leaders and Central Bankers set the rules for the economy, for all economic transaction.

    This is the Nature of Collectivism, of Big Governmentalism.

    To deny truth is to keep yourself enslaved and living within ignorance.

    Worse, to blame authentic, street-level Americans, those who are weak and impotent to such Collectivists wielding all the power and force is to go beyond denying truth.

    Those who do such vile acts are nothing more than apologists and handmaidens for the Collectivists of the USA.

  4. RW writes on GMAC:
    [How many of you believe that the auto industry bailout, including its financiers (GMAC), will ultimately cost just $17.4 + $6.3 = $23.7 billion? Not I; this is simply ludicrous.]
    First, I must explain I've been reading your blog religiously, but not commenting of late since I'm so torn on the form of the 'bailout'...which admittedly, is a misleading term.

    Short answer: 'No!'. Emphatically, which is exactly my concern over the whole affair.

    When the UK Gov bailed Northern Rock, I found myself writing: "In for a Penny, in for a Pound". How apt!

    I'm constantly nagged by the fact we are *bailing failure*!

    On the other hand, it is wrong not to use the 'steering mechanisms' the independent (there's an oxymoron) Central Banks offer us, let alone fiscal stimulus.

    The various infusions *appear* (there's no real way of assaying the effect) be be snapping off the ratchets that are supposed to be slowing the descent.

    It's not unlike blindly applying anti-biotics orally to a patient who has rampant diarrhea. Is the medicine effective? Is it being absorbed? Is it coming straight out the other end? Is it even *exacerbating* the body's ability to launch its own defense mechanism?

    There is rampant evidence that this nation's (Canada) Fin Min is a blubbering idiot (we had such a phenomenal one in Paul Martin a few years back for a decade) course of standing back and waiting is probably as good an action as any.

    But that's like watching the forests and cities burn the other side of the border. Do we conserve our water to fight the fires that actually break-out, or do we use all of our resources to saturate anything that can burn, and then deal with the drought and subsequent cost of water for the next generation?

    I'm stymied to even balance a compromise answer.


    I think it would be very timely for you to write a blog on the *economists'* definition of GDP Growth, Contraction, Recession and Depression.

    There are *so many* false definitions on the web, many at supposedly bona-fide economic sites, and yet even this heretic knows they are completely false. And many fools readily accept them with no questions asked. The Press really doesn't help the matter, and even some nations financial websites compound the confusion.

    My biggest beef surrounds the misconception of "negative GDP Growth".

    If a nation's GDP Growth eases from say, 10% per Q to 7% the following one, that *is not* "Negative GDP Growth". It is still *positive* growth, but at a lesser rate of expansion.

    I see this misreported incessantly, and it truly irks me. (I'm in Science, and one sees this constantly with Acceleration being confused with Velocity)

    *If* GDP for a Q is less than the previous one, *then* Growth has gone negative. Reduction of GDP Growth is exactly that, a reduction of *rate*...*NOT* necessarily a reduction of GDP itself.

    This confusion spills over into terms like "contraction" as well as many others surrounding GDP.

    Any words you could to clear the confusion much appreciated.

    The NBER ignores the "Growth" word altogether! (For damn good reason, it is completely irrelevant)

    Two consecutive quarters of decline in real GDP is commonly taken to be a recession. The National Bureau of Economic Research, a private organization, effectively decides when recessions occur, however, and the actual dating process is determined by judgment rather than a formal rule.

    One interesting point is that there is no widespread, unique term for periods that are not recessions. That is, we can refer to expansions and contractions, but there is no universal pairing of ____ and recessions.

    Please refer to The NBER’s Recession Dating Procedure for more details. A couple of key excerpts follow:

    Q: The financial press often states the definition of a recession as two consecutive quarters of decline in real GDP. How does that relate to the NBER's recession dating procedure?

    A:: Most of the recessions identified by our procedures do consist of two or more quarters of declining real GDP, but not all of them. According to current data for 2001, the present recession falls into the general pattern, with three consecutive quarters of decline. Our procedure differs from the two-quarter rule in a number of ways. First, we consider the depth as well as the duration of the decline in economic activity. Recall that our definition includes the phrase, "a significant decline in economic activity." Second, we use a broader array of indicators than just real GDP. One reason for this is that the GDP data are subject to considerable revision. Third, we use monthly indicators to arrive at a monthly chronology.

    Q: How does the NBER balance the differing behavior of employment and output?

    A: The NBER considers real GDP to be the single measure that comes closest to capturing what it means by "aggregate economic activity." The committee therefore places considerable weight on real GDP and other output measures. Following the precedents established in many decades of maintaining its business cycle chronology, however, the committee considers a wide range of indicators of economic activity. There is no fixed rule for how the different indicators are weighted.

    Source: The NBER’s Recession Dating Procedure.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. Hello you all,

    Let's play nice, okay?

    I deleted a comment that I deemed to be disrespectful to other forum participants (including myself). I do not moderate comments, as moderating shuts down the open exchange. Please do not force me into comment moderation.


  7. You run a good site, Rebecca! Thanks.

  8. And yet, by deleting my post and leaving my name there without my words shows disrespect to me.

    Moreover, you write a lie here when you claim "I do not moderate comments ..." right after deleting one.

    Let's all get a laugh and read some funny false beliefs about eocnomics and money spun from the Keynesians, Monetarists and Keynesian-Monetarists perspective.

    Next time, if you're going to delete a post, delete the name along with it. Show some respect.

  9. I had no idea who the deleted comment was from until Smack announced it -- it was just labeled "deleted comment."

    Rebecca, your posts are getting better and better, and continue to attract a lot of responses. Rest assured that while some like to throw their knowledge around, economics like politics, can become a heated discussion -- it proves your topics and content are worthy of stirring up some heavy debate.

    May the conversation (respectfully and humbly) continue!

  10. Tim:

    Extremely well said!

    I suggest if Mr MacDougal, who appears a lot at the Daily Reckoning, wishes some respect, he should show some.

    Since I checked the box to keep posted on this string, I read what was deleted.

    I would have done the same, and in fact, wished there was a 'Delete' button on this site to do exactly that.

    His comments were belligerent and disrespectful.

    Wild and nutty can be alright, sometimes even good, but not when the purveyor is brandishing a weapon.

    May this site remain an oasis of thought and consideration.

  11. Your lame innuendo amuses Stephen Saines.

    Your behavior is typical of those seeking status under condition of Group Dynamics.

    Since you have seen an attack against me, you perceive me to be an outsider.

    Thus, you join in the fray, attacking along with the lame ploy of innuendo only in hopes of gaining status with others.

    Cowardly acts of innuendo to support status seeking, as you do Stephen Saines, goes beyond disrespectful.

    How you amuse.

  12. You forgot to mention the ketchup stain on my leathers.

    I'm reminded of a quote from 'The Wild Ones':
    "What are you rebelling against, Johnny?"

    The answer:
    "What have you got".

    I had written a personal note to Ms Wilder, expressing my concern that perhaps I'd dragged a loser in from a forum I participate in elsewhere.

    Thank God you've set the record straight, Mr Smack. You were already here.

    Have a very merry Christmas Mr Smack, sir.


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