Once again, economists had a big miss in their estimate of first time claims for unemployment benefits. While the market consensus was set at 5.5 million, the actual number of claims topped 6.6 million. This is certainly taking a massive toll on families, businesses and the overall US economy. Hopefully, the small business Paycheck Protection Program will flood many businesses with cash and incentivize employers to re-hire or maintain their workforce. This should help stabilize the numbers as the employees will essentially be fully paid for 2 months by the Federal Government. As long as employers maintain their workforce for 8 weeks, the loans provided through this program will become grants that do not need to be paid back. This is certain to help reduce the unemployment claims in the near term.
Many are now questioning what will happen to the US economy going forward. I believe we will see a spike in the month of May or June at the latest when we see people return to work. However, there is irreparable damage being caused right now to many businesses that will take many years to recover from. I don’t expect to see people flock back into restaurants, concerts and movie theaters. Rather, I see an initial jump start followed by a long period of recovery. When all is said and done, I think people will be more aware of the potential spread of disease and that our lives and daily activities will be permanently altered. Clearly, this will have an adverse impact on economic growth going forward. Not to mention that our country will be many trillions deeper in debt (my estimate being upwards of adding $10 trillion in spending), so our countries ability to help stave off further economic recessions will be limited. At some point, the Piper will get paid.
With mortgage bonds remaining near all time high levels, we will maintain a locking bias.