On March 29th, in the wake of the release of the January trade data, I wrote that the U.S. economy may be beyond repair. The release of the March trade data this past week should erase all doubt about that. Never in my worst nightmare did I think that what happened in March was even possible. As bad as the trade deficit had become, the March deficit completely demolished the previous record. It didn’t just set a new record; it blew past February’s record by $20 billion, a 22% increase IN ONE MONTH! The increase was driven by imports, which soared $33 billion past the previous month’s record of $319 billion.
No doubt most will think that increase can be blamed on the higher price of oil imports. Well, think again. Oil imports rose by only $1.5 billion, while oil exports rose more, resulting in a $1.5 billion surplus in the trade of oil. No, the increase in the trade deficit was driven entirely by manufactured goods, where the deficit jumped by $24.6 billion, $22.1 billion (21%) higher than the record set in January. The increase was across the board of categories of manufactured goods: industrial supplies and materials; capital goods; vehicles, parts & engines; and consumer goods. You’d better be sitting down when you look at these charts: March trade deficit; March trade deficit in manufactured goods.
If you’ve been wondering why inflation is spiraling out-of-control, this is your answer. The explosive growth in government spending has fueled an equally explosive demand for goods, nearly all of which are imported. Well, you might think, at least American manufacturers must also be enjoying this expansion in demand. Right? Think again. As this explosion in imports has been taking place, American manufacturing is in serious decline. Look at this chart of the U.S. ISM Purchasing Managers Index, a good measure of manufacturing activity. It actually fell through the first quarter and, more recently, plunged in April. Why? “The US manufacturing sector remains in a demand-driven, supply chain-constrained environment.” In other words, U.S. manufacturers can’t get the materials, equipment and parts – most notably semiconductor chips – that they need. For example, auto imports jumped dramatically in March while American production slowed due to lack of “chips.” Living in the Detroit area, I can tell you that once-empty lots are now over-flowing everywhere in this area with unfinished cars and trucks, unfinished because they’re awaiting the installation of computer chips. You have to see it to believe it.
In that same post on March 29th, I speculated on the supply of Javelin anti-tank missiles in the wake of Ukrainian President Zelensky’s request for 1,000 missiles per day to be delivered, and doubted that we had the capacity to produce even ten per day. Yesterday, on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” hosty Margaret Brennan interviewed Jim Taiclet, CEO of Lockheed Martin, maker of the Javelin missiles. Mr. Taiclet reported that his company’s capacity for production of those missiles is 2100 per year which, assuming a 5-day work week, is a capacity of eight missiles per day. (My guess of ten per day was pretty close, huh?) Clearly, there’s no chance in hell of providing Ukraine with the 1,000 missiles per day that they requested.
Mr. Taiclet also confirmed that each missile requires 250 “chips.” He said that they have enough chips today to keep production running at current levels, but would be supply-constrained beyond that. In addition it would take years to scale up significant additional capacity.
Meanwhile, China remains in a lock-down which, they claim, is an effort to stamp out the Covid virus. Does that make any sense to you? Given that the Covid virus no longer exists in its original state, and that we’re now dealing with subvariants of subvariants that no longer have the lethality of the original virus, the pandemic is for all intents and purposes over. Yet we’re to believe that it’s so bad in China that they’ve locked down entire cities? There’s something else going on. I believe that what’s happening is that China is implementing the final stage of a strategy to wipe out America’s manufacturing capability to the extent that it’s even unable to maintain its armed forces. Think about it. The war in Ukraine is sucking up all of America’s munitions while, at the same time, China is choking off our ability to replenish. The day may be rapidly approaching when Russia and China defeat the U.S. without even firing a shot, since we may not have a bullet left to fire.
Our politicians and media may not be able to see what’s happening, but Wall Street sure does. Inflation alone doesn’t explain the ongoing market crash. Not even fear of a recession can explain it. Clearly, there’s growing fear of something much worse – perhaps the end of our economy as we know it, if not the outright demise of the United States itself.