Well, 2019 is here and it's time to consider what sort of growth is possible. Speaking from a macro'est viewpoint, it's helpful to acknowledge that 90% of the wealth/income/savings and nearly 90% of global energy is consumed by the high and upper middle income nations of the world (those with per capita incomes ranging from nearly $90k/yr all the way down to $4k/yr). This is the high income nations of the US/Canada, most of the EU, Japan/S. Korea, Aus/NZ, etc., plus the upper middle income nations of China, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, Thailand, Iran, etc. (as defined by World Bank... previously detailed HERE). In 2019, this represents about 3.85 billion of earths approximate 7.7 billion population... or about half of earth's population (50% consume 90%, while the other 50% consume just 10%).
So, let's examine the primary fuel source available in 2019... the growth among the 0 to 69 yr/old global consumer population. The blue line in the chart below shows the total 0 to 69 yr/old population which includes the potential working age population (20 to 69 yr/olds?) and child bearing population (15 to 45 yr/olds) versus the annual change in that population (red columns). Astute chart watchers will note that population growth has decelerated by 30 million annually, a 75% reduction, since the 1988 peak. 2025 is the year growth ceases entirely and by 2035 this population is estimated to be declining by 10 million annually.
Consider that upon the completion of every business cycle since 1960 and onset of recession (highlighted by the blacked out columns in the chart below) there was still significant growth (fuel) among the global consumer population. That population growth coupled with the Federal Reserve's rate cuts and federal government's stimulus restarted not just domestic but global economic growth. The macro population cycle among the global high/upper middle income nations' consumer base expanded anywhere from 30 to 40 million persons annually from 1960 through 1990, but growth slowed to about 20 million annually from 1995 though 2015.
However, if the current business cycle's end and the onset of a recession were to begin in 2019, the old playbook of rate cuts and stimulus would find the least fertile ground since WWII; "just" 11 million more "prime" consumers than the year prior. This relative fraction of the previously larger multipliers is why central banks and federal governments are so fearful of allowing the next recession (and free markets)... and why significantly greater actions will be necessary (negative interest rates, stimulus, ???) and will almost surely be attempted to restart "growth" upon the next slowdown. Of course, the longer the recession is delayed, the less population growth (fuel) will then be available to restart the engines of domestic and global economic activity.
Likewise, if we consider the shifting annual population growth as a very good proxy for shifting demand (inflation), it should be no surprise that the Federal Reserve's federal funds rate is highly correlated to these population changes. Following this logic, it is clear that rates will again soon follow the macro'est population cycle into negative territory. Whether NIRP, likely massive stimulus, and a slew of new and old acronyms for "bailout" will have the desired effect versus a soon to be shrinking consuming populace, that is another question?
Extra Credit - Why the US will likely soon enter a recession. When the US population is barely growing but employment among them continues rising... soon the US will run out of further employable persons to maintain the growth (chart below).
And why the US has little ammunition left to fight the next downturn... chart below shows surging public debt versus stalling growth in intra-governmental debt.
The chart below shows the annual issuance broken down by that sold publicly and that purchased via Intra-governmental surplus. 2018 was the third highest increase in debt, behind only 2009 and 2010... and this was the good times. One can only wonder how much the US will issue in the next hard time.
Editor's Note: The summary bullets for this article were chosen by Seeking Alpha editors