Thursday, January 24, 2008

What a Depression Looks Like

I have a couple promises to fulfill: "The best investments during a hyperinflation" and "What I learned from the Cowles commission about stock indexes". I'll get to them within a week, I promise. 'Til then here's Time magazine's June 13. 1938 story "Depression II":

Last week Kennecott Copper Corp., whose operations fell to 16% of capacity in 1932 during the depths of Depression I, announced that beginning June 16 all its U. S. mines would be closed "for at least a month." Domestic scrap copper prices having tumbled from 10¢ to 6.75¢ a Ib. in eight days, Anaconda Copper Mining Co., one of the world's biggest producers, already had closed two of its biggest U. S. mines.

Producers of other commodities seem to have developed similarly sensitive reflexes since Depression I when business took its time about shutting up shop. In London last week the International Rubber Regulation Committee cut the third quarter export quota to 45% of basic allowances. Setting of the new quota, lowest since the Committee was formed, halted an abrupt decline in prices—19.7¢ a Ib. down to 11.3¢ since last year. Also the International Tin Committee ordered tin exports cut from 55% to 45% of standard tonnages. In Washington, Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace said he would soon reduce sugar quotas in the U. S. The petroleum industry, still hopeful of maintaining current prices, cut production to its lowest point in many months—3,098,650 bbl. daily, 77.8% of capacity.

Other items of Depression II: ¶. In October 1936, General Electric Co. instituted its Cost of Living Adjustment Plan, paid employes making $4,000 and less a bonus based on the Department of Labor's cost-of-living index. Still on this basis, G.E. last week cut its bonus from 5% to 3%, its common stock dividend from 30¢ to 20¢....MORE