What is it Dylan once wrote? Something like "You don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows." For me, it didn't start with gasoline prices, although I'm convinced speculators have amplified the increases (Think Enron). These although huge were bearable, and there are ways to cut back on driving. It started with ethanol. The emphasis on green and renewable fuels sent corn prices skyrocketing. They had a ripple effect on all sorts of products. Wheat prices seemed to go up in sympathy with corn, although I'm assured it's just supply and demand. Next thing you know just about everything in the supermarket is up. Seriously, over two dollars for a baguette?
Then in plein Christmas shopping season, the stores were empty. That spooked me. So I got to thinking that the definition of a recession is two straight quarters of decline in the GDP. In other words, it'll take six months for the economic powers that be to announce that we've been in a recession for the past six months. And all of this is occurring against the backdrop of the mortgage and housing debacle with its effects on the markets.
I came home from Christmas shopping that day and announced to Packrat that it would be a lean Christmas, just in case. I hope we don't wind up in a major recession, but it doesn't hurt to be prepared. To this amateur observer, the barometer seems to be falling.