The financial markets have been through some wild and crazy times over the last two weeks, although it appears that they have finally stabilized. The net effect of all the gyrations is that a serious bubble in China's market seems to have been at least partially deflated. After hugely overreacting to this correction, most other markets have largely recovered. Prices are down from recent peaks, but in nearly all cases well above year-ago levels. But the stock market is really a sideshow; after all, back in 1987 the U.S. market fell by almost 25 percent for no obvious reason, with little noticeable effect on the U.S. economy. The more serious question is what is happening with the underlying economy, and there are some real issues here.
While the housing market is clearly improving, with four of the five key indicators of the housing recovery from our Housing Barometer at least halfway back to normal, it looks like the recovery is happening even without much improvement in first-time homeownership. Does that mean the housing recovery isn't for real? Not so fast.
Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen made waves in her Congressional testimony last week when she argued that social media and biotech stocks were over-valued. She also said that the price of junk bonds was out of line with historic experience. By making these assertions in a highly visible public forum, Yellen was using the power of the Fed's megaphone to stem the growth of incipient bubbles. This is an approach that some of us have advocated for close to twenty years.