TrimTabs: Its a Recession, and Its Already Over (Wrong)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008 | 07:07 AM

This one is no April Fools joke: According to TrimTabs, the economy has been in a recession for six months now. And, it has already emerged from the recession (or is about to).

The basis for this somewhat startling set of conclusions? Withholding Income Tax receipts, online job listings, and several other factors.

I highly doubt both the methodology and conclusion TrimTabs has reached. It has to do with the way Trimtabs looks at the annual withholding data. "According to Madeline Schnapp, director of macroeconomic research at TrimTabs, withholdings during March were 4.1% higher than one year ago."

That is, to be blunt, an absurd basis for making such a conclusion.


Well, it fails to consider prior rates of change. As we noted last week, the year-over-year Changes in US Withholding Taxes have been trending considerably lower. Merely taking a single data point -- such as 4.1% -- without providing any context is just plain foolish. What is the significance of that number? Is it  good, bad or indifferent? How does the data compare to the prior March's year-over-year gain?

The answer is not encouraging: Its up a whole lot less than March 2007.

Here's the latest chart of Withholding Taxes, via Matt Trivisonno:

I GOT YOUR 4.1% RIGHT HERE:Wh_tax_4108

Source: Wheee! The recession is over!


To think, Goldman Sachs recently bought a minority stake in TrimTabs (I guess they are no longer the smartest house on the street).


There are two other factors to consider regarding the TrimTabs model (tho I think that first one above is fatal):

First, the 2003-2007 post-recession recovery was the historically weakest in terms of job creation since WW2. Thus, we should not expect the raw numbers of layoffs to parallel prior cycles. Job listings, which have a much shorter data history, should be similarly anomalous.

Second, Gross Domestic Income (GDI) has done a substantially better job recognizing the start of the last several recessions than other factors, such as GDP. And, GDI recently suffered its biggest drop since 2001.
Based on that, the recession likely began in December -- not October.


Changes in US Withholding Taxes
Monday, March 24, 2008 | 07:12 AM

Good and bad economic news   
Mark Hulbert
MarketWatch, 11:29 p.m. EDT April 1, 2008

Did Economy Really Escape Fourth Quarter Drop? 
Brian Blackstone
WSJ Real Time Economics, March 27, 2008, 2:02 pm

Wednesday, April 02, 2008 | 07:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack (1) add to | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post



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» More on Federal Withholding Taxes from The Big Picture
Yesterday, I referenced Matt Trivisonno's chart on federal withholding chart in order to defenestrate some wildly inaccurate research from TrimTabs. I don't know what the specific methodology employed by TrimTabs actually is, but simply calling 4.1% ta... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 3, 2008 8:46:00 AM


The end of the recession will be spun fast and furiously today. The PPT and the Kool-aid drinkers want the meme to replace the reality once again. The only question is whether reality will play nice and capitulate. If additional problems in the financials raise their ugly heads, the meme disappears in a puff of smoke.

I'm betting on reality.

Posted by: Marcus Aurelius | Apr 2, 2008 8:05:18 AM

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