David Rosenberg: The U.S. Is Suffering a Japanese-Style Depression

Japanese unemployed
Japanese unemployed

Presciently bearish David Rosenberg, the chief economist and strategist at Gluskin Sheff who called the global meltdown back when he was still at Merrill Lynch, isn't budging from his view that the U.S. is in a depression -- and a prolonged, Japanese-style one at that.

Rosenberg reminded clients on Wednesday that here we are 33 months after the Great Recession began, and yet home prices, gross domestic product, credit outstanding, organic personal income and employment are all lower now than they were prior to the onset of the downturn.

"We can understand that this is not exactly cocktail conversation, but this is a Japanese-style (even worse perhaps) modern-day depression," Rosenberg writes. "It's not the 1930s because soup lines have been replaced with unemployment insurance lines -- over 10 million checks and for up to 99 weeks. The poor souls who endured the bitter 1930s had no such relief."

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And as for the U.S.'s vaunted labor flexibility and superior demographics saving it from a Japanese sort of lost decade or two, well, Rosenberg is having none of it.

"Government policy and the record number of people upside-down on their mortgage have seriously impaired the flexibility of the labor market," Rosenberg writes. And the U.S. birth rate has declined for two consecutive years and is at its lowest level in a century, he notes.

Of course, it's no surprise to buy-and-hold investors that U.S. equities have already notched a lost decade and then some. Take a look at this 10-year chart of the S&P 500 ($INX):