Hi there. Sorry I've been out of touch the past few days. I was on the road and got preoccupied working on a story about Silicon Valley's economy that will run in a few days (Here's a hint: the economy there is lousy, too).
Anyhow, a few thoughts while reporting on the appointment of Joseph Dear as the new chief investment officer of CalPERS (See my colleague Jon Ortiz's early, online version of the story here and look for more coverage in Thursday's paper):
-- Dear is stepping into a difficult spot. This is pretty obvious, I know, but it's going to be hard for anyone to pretty up the CalPERS investment picture. Thanks largely to the stock market's troubles, the big fund has lost $64 billion since July 1.
-- It's the burning economic question on everyone's mind. It gets asked over and over, because nobody really has an answer: How bad is the recession going to get? One minute it seems like things have stabilized somewhat, and while we're in the midst of a rough recession, we won't be in a Depression. Then all of a sudden it feels like the sky is falling again, as with the fresh fears that have surfaced in the past few days about the true health of the banking system. David Leonhardt's analysis in today's New York Times is worth reading; it compares 2009 with 1982 (A version of this story ran in today's print version of the Bee).
-- What's interesting about the current downturn is this persistent fear of the unknown. I don't remember this kind of anxiety in 2001 (at least about the economy; we had other, more immediate things to worry about after 9/11) or the early 1990s. For that matter, as bad as the early 1980s recession was, I don't remember that same level of fear back then, either.
-- And when was the last time we had this many retailers go out of business (or into Chapter 11)? Whew. If we had this many empty storefronts in earlier recessions, I've forgotten about it.