Brian Wesbury Is Clueless

May 5, 2009 at 4:16 pm  ·  Category: Sentiment Analysis

Brian Wesbury, Chief Economist at First Trust Advisors and a regular on CNBC, especially The Kudlow Report, has a piece up at Forbes today titled: “The Recession Is Over”:

Now it looks like our V-shaped recovery is underway.  When the NBER eventually gets around to declaring the recession end date, we think it will be May 2009.


In our view, there are no more shoes to drop.

Wesbury is notable mainly for his ability to get everything wrong.  Usually, even bad forecasters get something right, even if it is by accident.  Not Wesbury. 

Here are some excerpts from an editorial he wrote for The Wall Street Journal on January 28, 2008 titled “The Economy Is Fine (Really)” (subscription required):

It is hard to imagine any time in history when such rampant pessimism about the economy has existed with so little evidence of serious trouble.


With housing so weak, the recent softness in production and durable goods orders is understandable.  But housing is now a small share of GDP (4.5%).  And it has fallen so much already that it is highly unlikely to drive the economy into recession all by itself.  Exports are 12% of the economy, and are growing at a 13.6% rate. The boom in exports is overwhelming the loss from housing.


Models based on recent monetary and tax policy suggest real GDP will grow at a 3% to 3.5% rate in 2008, while the probability of recession this year is 10%.


Yet many believe that a recession has already begun because credit markets have seized up.  This pessimistic view argues that losses from the subprime arena are the tip of the iceberg.  An economic downturn, combined with a weakened financial system, will result in a perfect storm for the multi-trillion dollar derivatives market.  It is feared that cascading problems with inter-connected counterparty risk, swaps and excessive leverage will cause the entire “house of cards,” otherwise known as the U.S. financial system, to collapse.  At a minimum, they fear credit will contract, causing a major economic slowdown.

For many, this catastrophic outlook brings back memories of the Great Depression, when bank failures begot more bank failures, money was scarce, credit was impossible to obtain, and economic problems spread like wildfire.

This outlook is both perplexing and worrisome.  Perplexing, because it is hard to see how a campfire of a problem can spread to burn down the entire forest.  What Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently estimated as a $100 billion loss on subprime loans would represent only 0.1% of the $100 trillion in combined assets of all U.S. households and U.S. non-farm, non-financial corporations.  Even if losses ballooned to $300 billion, it would represent less than 0.3% of total U.S. assets.


Because all debt rests on a foundation of real economic activity, and the real economy is still resilient, the current red alert about a crashing house of cards looks like another false alarm…… Dow 15,000 looks much more likely than Dow 10,000.  Keep the faith and stay invested.  It’s a wonderful buying opportunity.

He has no credibility and no shame.  I don’t dislike Brian Wesbury as he seems like a nice guy.  But he should be held accountable for getting everything wrong.  And nobody should pay any heed to his forecasts.

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39 Responses to “Brian Wesbury Is Clueless”
  • re:Brian Wesbury

    There is a fine line between genius and insanity and you young man…are no genius!

    Keith  ·  May 6, 2009 at 7:07 am  ·  Permalink
  • And neither is Brian Wesbury based on his track record…..

    Greg Feirman  ·  May 7, 2009 at 10:52 am  ·  Permalink
  • Hey Greg, it looks like Wesbury was right about the V-shaped recovery. Does that make you wrong and clueless? And now that you have been so wrong should we never listen to you again? How about it? Do you want to provide a mea culpa, and maybe apologize to Wesbury?

    mea culpa  ·  Aug 7, 2009 at 8:01 pm  ·  Permalink
  • Mea Culpa,

    It’s way too early for that baby. If I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to say it. But this is just a 5 month stock market move at this point. We won’t know if this is a head fake or not for quite some time.

    Greg Feirman  ·  Aug 10, 2009 at 8:24 am  ·  Permalink
  • Greg,

    How about 8 months and a 10,000 DJIA? We’ll know whether or not this was a V or a head fake in about 5 years.

    Brian believed that in January 2008 the troubles were localized to the financial sector. He might admit that he missed that, but would more likely comment that between FED action and gov’t meddling there was jet fuel thrown to the fire. The truth is probably somewhere between 50 different economic opinions though.

    My only problem with your artful coloring of Wesbury is that you and I could pick 10 economist each year and impale them on their asinine predictions and comments. So the ridicule of one in hindsight is rather childish. After all, Roubini correctly predicted this recession in each of the previous 5 years and was seen as a soothsayer last year. Using the blanket comments you covered Wesbury with are irresponsible and really quite puzzling.


    Brian’s Dad – I kid of course

    What Me Worry?  ·  Oct 14, 2009 at 11:54 am  ·  Permalink
  • I have no problem with Brian Wesbury as a person. In fact, he seems like a really nice guy.

    I just don’t think he’s a good economist.

    Unfortunately, we won’t know who is right here for quite some time, but we have to live life and make decisions in the present.

    Greg Feirman  ·  Oct 19, 2009 at 10:57 am  ·  Permalink
  • I don’t want to gang up on you but I hope you have now realized who was right and who was wrong and yes- this time Mea Culpa IS in order. He was right when he forecasted the V shape recovery when everyone thought he was crazy, he was right when he turned to the Baltic Dry Freight index, copper charts and vehicle replacement charts to support his notion of the V (unlike the “this is the bottomless recession” you hear from pundits on tv with no empirical proof) and he’s right when he says that blaming capitalism for the recession is not only wrong, but it’s ignorant to do so. (Government’s failure to cease market-to-market accounting is btw)

    So I say, TG, if now is not the time for apologies and acknowledging that you were wrong, how high does the market have to get and how high does GDP need to be for you to apologize?

    Stocks for the Long Run!  ·  Nov 17, 2009 at 11:55 am  ·  Permalink
  • Why are you so anxious to declare winners and losers in this debate? Give it time man. I know you can hear all the voices in this market that see the same things I do and are skeptical. When I say give it time, I’m saying let’s say how this looks at the end of 2010 or some such time frame. It’s 8 months right now. That’s all.

    Greg Feirman  ·  Nov 17, 2009 at 12:09 pm  ·  Permalink
  • Westbury is a schill for the repubs and Kudlow. I dont think he believes what he writes but he has to say it to get air time which is his job at First Trust

    First Trust’s Brian Wesbury is predicting a remarkably positive GDP for the second quarter of 2008 (HT: Mark Perry):

    Late next week the government will release initial estimates of real economic activity in the second quarter. Not long ago, in early April, when the quarter was just beginning, the consensus forecast for Q2 2008 real GDP growth was 0.0%, with as many economists predicting contraction as were predicting growth.

    Now, three months later, the consensus is up to 2.2%. And no surprise – we are forecasting a 3% growth rate, more bullish than almost any other economist.

    HOW about -0.7?????

    Brian doesnt even believe his own stuiff but has to curry repub favor to get airtime (Kudlow and WSJ) which is his job at FT

    Tbone  ·  Nov 24, 2009 at 9:50 am  ·  Permalink
  • Greg, You said – “I just don’t think he’s a good economist. [Wesbury]” tell us why you don’t think he’s a good economist. you take his words from early 2008 when he said the economy was just fine…but if you look at the economic numbers through Sept. 2008 (outside of the housing market) and the economy was still growing. it only stopped growing after the panic that ensued when Lehman’s failed, that the economy went into a “v” shaped recession and then has promptly rebounded. — so, what evidence do you have for saying he’s a bad economist? If you know anything about being aMacro-economist (which Brian identifies himself as) you’ll understand that no one knows how millions, if not billions, of people will act at any given time. And your forecasts are only as good as the current information you have, so…again, why is Brian a bad economist? Better or worse than other economist…and if he’s so bad, who is better? 🙂 I love arm chair quarterbacks…they can see the past so clearly…but then Greg isn’t willing to take the risk of giving us his forecast…(just it’s going to be bad…I don’t know how bad, but bad) you tell us to wait and see about the future. Greg, keep waiting for the review mirror. it’s coming around again. Thanks for your insightful critique of a professional ecomists’ real-world forecasts.

    Dogsan  ·  Feb 14, 2010 at 1:36 pm  ·  Permalink
  • Come on Dogsan. Now that you’re getting scared that I might be right, you go after me?

    My prediction, as I forecast in the Client Note last week, is a range bound market within the context of an overall secular bear market. We will go much lower but maybe not this year.

    Greg Feirman  ·  Feb 16, 2010 at 12:43 pm  ·  Permalink
  • Westbury does seem like a hack to me.

    Now he is stating that we are likely to have a housing shortage in 2011? (see attached link to Forbes article)

    Guys like him keeps on swinging for the fences…and every now and then, he gets hold of one. Probably most of the times, he totally gets it wrong. But he hopes that most people won’t remember, and he’ll get enough right that he continues to stay relevant (in terms of the publications, and uninformed investors).

    Its a strange profession…probably the only profession(other than athletics) where you screw up more than half of your efforts…but you still get paid well… Maybe, this is how we should view econmists like him…entertainment.

    Jason Hahn  ·  Feb 23, 2010 at 6:16 pm  ·  Permalink
  • Dogsan says “… but if you look at the economic numbers through Sept. 2008 (outside of the housing market) and the economy was still growing”

    The numbers peaked in August 2007. Dogsan gives us foolery.

    If you don’t get the Efficiency of Money, you can’t get economics, which is the art of exchanging the claim of one right for another.

    Brain Wesbury has one quality going for him. He’s a free-choice, regulation-free markets guy.

    Smack MacDougal  ·  Apr 14, 2010 at 1:25 pm  ·  Permalink
  • Brian Wesbury,

    Afte reading that WSJ editoria it is obvious that Wesbury is unmoored from reality.

    Today’s comment that the unemployment numbers increased because more people are now looking for work, not more people are unemployed requires that you were born yesterday or at least sometime after the media started spinning bad news into a surging economy.

    V shaped recovery? Tell that to the people who remain unemployed.

    That stock market you are crowing about, keep believing that treasury money has not been injected into it to make pwesident OlympDick look good.

    NOZZLE  ·  May 7, 2010 at 5:25 pm  ·  Permalink
  • Oops. Looks like he was right. We are in a “V” shaped recovery, yet nobody wants to believe it. Thankfully, I’ve been following Brian and have had a tremendous recovery for my clients. Brian should most likely get economist of the year for 2009, as no other economist has come close to his predictions. I think Bloomberg gave him “top economist” honors recently.

    Brian  ·  Jun 2, 2010 at 2:46 pm  ·  Permalink
  • Of course the perma-bulls look good when the economy and stock market roar like they have over the past year.

    Let’s see how things look a year from now.

    Greg Feirman  ·  Jun 5, 2010 at 8:30 am  ·  Permalink
  • “Oops. Looks like he was right. ”

    Huh? Right about what? What V are you talking about? He made those comment on Jan 28 2008 when the SPY was 138-ish unemployment was sub-7%. You invested on his advice and puke up 20%.

    In February of 2008, he said the following to Human Events:

    “We should be buying stocks, and I say that for two reasons: Number One, the market basically today is priced for almost the end of the world.”

    Clearly wrong.

    “The other thing is, if you look back at the last 230 years of U.S. history, there has really hardly ever been a bad time to buy stocks — especially if you are holding them for the long run.”

    This is a fallacy proved wrong time and again.

    “we are not in a recession and we are not even headed for one”


    “we have become very politically oriented in our economic policy. In other words, we are doing things today because we are in an election year or because of some political expediency.”

    Absolutely right. Good one Brian. Maybe he should have been a political scientist?

    How about this chestnut: “The biggest one is this whole subprime lending issue. At its worst, and this is using the worst assumptions that I can make, it’ll be about a $250 billion problem. I don’t even think that we’ll get to that level; that’s the worst I can make it.”

    “we’d need to fix is our tax code. It is a system that is broken. It is inefficient. It is causing us to lose competitiveness in the world.”

    He actually may have something as a political scientist here . . .

    So, Brian may have excellent political insights, but as a macro economist he is incompetent to the point of danger.

    A good rule of thumb with Economists is that less you hear of them the better they are. Banks charge for economic analysis and customers get pissed when they here Mr. or Mrs. Blah Blah on the TV giving up information that they pay for.

    WSJevons  ·  Jul 30, 2010 at 11:23 am  ·  Permalink
  • Lets give Mr. Wesbury his due… He is a brilliant contrarian indicator. He just said we should all be buying stocks… I will run to the exits with what little money I have left in equities. Thanks for the headsup Brian.

    Nick  ·  Aug 29, 2010 at 8:09 pm  ·  Permalink
  • Nick, did you head for the exits? The stock market is up 15% since Wesbury said “buy” about two months ago. I feel sorry for you. By the way, how did this post get to be so prominent. Obviously the author has an axe to grind, doesn’t know what he is talking about and has been wrong about Wesbury. And he won’t apologize. How does Brian get this thing taken down? It’s a hack job on him and everyone knows it.

    Mea Culpa  ·  Nov 4, 2010 at 5:03 am  ·  Permalink
  • Greg, why won’t you put up my post from November 4th? Or, why don’t you just take down you hack job post about Wesbury? This thing comes up when you do a Google search for Brian Wesbury and its totally unfair, mean-spirited and misleading. You have been wrong. Wesbury has been right. That doesn’t mean that he is always right. Clearly, you have been wrong about the recovery and the stock market. So, why should people listen to you? What do you have against Wesbury. I guess this is all politics. He’s conservative. You are liberal. So, you hack him unfairly. Pull the post down. It’s wrong and has been wrong for well over a year. Wesbury deserves an apology from you.

    Mea Culpa  ·  Nov 5, 2010 at 5:29 am  ·  Permalink
  • Mea Culpa,

    My apologies for not putting up your comments sooner. I have not been that active on the blog lately.

    Greg Feirman  ·  Nov 16, 2010 at 10:23 am  ·  Permalink
  • Greg, thanks for putting the comments up. But, I’m serious. You owe Wesbury an apology. You called him “clueless” back on May 5, 2009 and the post above comes up number three or four when you do a Google search for Brian Wesbury. Two months after your post, the NBER says that an official recovery started. So, it looks like Wesbury was right and you were wrong that a recovery was beginning in mid-2009. And, since then, the stock market has climbed by 75%. Let’s not argue about the economy, but it sure was a V-shaped recovery in the stock market. And as far as Wesbury getting everything wrong, I looked back at his record. In the past 20 years, he predicted a slowdown in 1990 and 1991 and a recession in 2001 (for which he won the Wall Street Journal’s #1 forecaster award). He missed the recession of 2008. All the other years he was predicting growth. So, if you look at the past 20 years of history, with four years of recession and 16 years of growth, he was right for 17 of those years – an .850 batting record. You called him “clueless.” If you look at Roubini, he predicted recession after Katrina and then predicted catastrophe every year since. He was wrong about Katrina, but then right about 2008. So he was right for 2 years out of the last five – a batting record of .400. Who is better at forecasting? Wesbury deserves to have this post taken down. It’s wrong, unfair and mean-spirited. Especially if this is a dead blog.

    This is your quote – “He has no credibility and no shame. I don’t dislike Brian Wesbury as he seems like a nice guy. But he should be held accountable for getting everything wrong. And nobody should pay any heed to his forecasts.”

    It looks like this paragraph now applies to you.

    Mea Culpa  ·  Nov 24, 2010 at 8:33 pm  ·  Permalink
  • I saw an interview with B. Wesbury today saying that there is really no reason to be concerned about any forth coming U.S. economic collapse any time soon as that which fell upon Greece. He gives it 20 to 30 years before any real concern for that happening needs to be lent. He seems to be living in some foggy haze filled with strawberries and cream since it’s completely obvious that that could not be further from the truth. The fact is that we are edging closer to the abyss with ecah passing moment and this year will be the catalyst for the final meltdown. Without the Fed creating this artificial economy, inflated market value/bubble pump priming we would have only half the economy (real as in productive) to trade in. The underlying structual defecencies that still exist are not being fully addressed and can not be legitiamtely corrected nor sustained until the Fed takes the party bowl away. The full blown enevitable pain that we’ve yet to go thru to allow corrective measures to come into play is being postponed at best. Attach that to a failing fiscal policy and it becomes clear that we are in real trouble. Foreign investment in treasuries are contracting and this is really a sign of real trouble for the economy along with so many other negative forces…too many to list here….suffice to say that Wesbury’s anology, as I listened today, is far too bullish and escapes the reality of the perfect storm of undeniable forces that are here and those that lay ahead arriving at a point much sooner than later to create one hell of a train wreck. A simple fact; you can not spend your way into debt in a quest to reach prosperity. This year we will see the damage that comes from this head on.

    E. Eddington  ·  Feb 15, 2011 at 4:30 pm  ·  Permalink
  • E. eddington – Be careful. The top gun (haha – a true top gunner would admit being wrong and actually say he’s sorry) guy who does this blog will write that you are clueless if you are wrong. And you will be wrong.

    Mea Culpa  ·  Mar 27, 2011 at 5:00 pm  ·  Permalink
  • First of all Brian wesbury looks at high frequency data on a weekly basis. Brian is an economist not a hype writer like you. Most of his predictions puts his credibility much higher than yours due to his economic background. Yes we are in a fearful time but the fundamentals are still positive not great but positive. We did have a v shape recovery and we arestill in it so once again you are wrong so what’re you going to do about it.

    Jpos  ·  Sep 14, 2011 at 6:33 am  ·  Permalink
  • Jpos: First of all, I place no value on your opinion.

    Second of all, see first of all.

    Greg Feirman  ·  Oct 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm  ·  Permalink
  • Feirman, it’s your opinion that has absolutely no value. Three years ago you said Wesbury was wrong. Wow – no one has been more wrong than you in the past three years…except maybe Roubini. Good company. BY the way, the chart up there on the right is highly misleading. Comparing your perfomance from Q2-2009 to the performance of the DOW and S&P from 2007….huh?

    Be a man….admit YOU were wrong and Wesbury was right.

    Mea Culpa  ·  Mar 16, 2012 at 7:42 pm  ·  Permalink
  • Mea Culpa:

    I am getting very tired of you and if you don’t have anything new to say, go somewhere else. This is my perspective. There is value in a diversity of viewpoints.

    And my performance reporting is not misleading. All returns are from 2007 forward. Top Gun returns are after fees starting Q2 2009.

    Finally, I did admit to being wrong in April 2010:

    Greg Feirman  ·  Mar 28, 2012 at 6:33 am  ·  Permalink
  • Obviously Brian is not clueless. He was a bit early, but his predictions were closer than 90% of the economists out there.

    Brian, unlike many economists, doesn’t employ scare tactics in order to get people to read what he has to say. He looks at the data in front of him and gives an opinion.

    Remember, no economist in the history of the U.S. is right 100% of the time and Brian is no exception. But he is one of the few that is right more often than he is wrong. We leverage his opinion in our work and his insight has been very important for us in making investment decisions.

    A simple “I was wrong about Westbury’s opinion” seems to be in order.

    Chris  ·  Jul 2, 2012 at 6:59 pm  ·  Permalink
  • […] particular, I’m referring to permabull “economists” like Brian Wesbury or David Malpass, who never met a data point they couldn’t transform into a thriving green […]

    Financial Armageddon | Project World Awareness  ·  May 2, 2013 at 3:43 pm  ·  Permalink
  • Wesbury is an idiot.

    When his forecasts are wrong, he blames TARP, without which is bullish stance on the economy would be even more wrong from 2008-2011.

    He Repeatedly denied there was a recession, or that it was severe.

    He can be found on CNBC saying the economy is fine in early 2008, because every restaurant he visits is full -a very astute observation for a field that is data dependent to make forecasts.

    He can’t get the anti Obama out of his head and clouds his judgement on policy (I don’t disagree with his anti intervention stance, but I know flooding the market with cheap money will fuel some growth, even if not sustainable).

    He now (yesterday) claims that cheap funding is not the reason for asset reinflation, but
    tablet computers, apps, nano technology are fueling growth and productivity (cannot dismiss his claim, but companies paying lower interest rates sure helps them improve bottom line and replace expensive equity with cheap debt).

    Wesbury = Baboon. Make that buffoon.

    CreditoMu  ·  May 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm  ·  Permalink
  • I met Brian In 2009. He described the situation as a panic and predicated a V shaped recovery. Following his lead made my retirement possible. Brian has been consistent and correct in the past 5 years. He can be a calming influence in a media world chasing ratings as they go about stimulating fear and anxiety and ratings. People who followed him and acted on his advice benefitted greatly. Thank you Brian.

    Dan  ·  Feb 18, 2014 at 4:26 am  ·  Permalink
  • Wesbury is a better analyst than you and certainly more professional. Watch his Wesbury 101 videos (archived) and read his book on Capitalism. He is calling the recovery and calling out the bears who have been bearish for so long. This article is garbage, I wonder who hired you. Your negativity is apparent and you’re are looking like a fool in all these comments. That makes you wrong and mad.

    Trevor  ·  Nov 11, 2014 at 8:37 pm  ·  Permalink
  • what are we at now? about 85 consecutive months of economic expansion?

    whether it is exactly 85 months or 82 or 87 or whatever, … that is certainly “quite some time” as in when Greg Feirman wrote on Aug 10, 2009 at 8:24 am:

    “If I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to say it. But this is just a 5 month stock market move at this point. We won’t know if this is a head fake or not for quite some time.”

    Might this still be a head fake? Is it long enough to tell? Does Brian Wesbury get his apology yet, … and if not, when?

    Oh, and by the way, I think it is too late for you to be the “first” to say you were wrong, … that horse is out of the gate (about 80-some months ago).

    Dave Juday  ·  Nov 17, 2017 at 2:50 pm  ·  Permalink
  • It’s probably too complicated for you. Brian got lucky. It’s not over yet. Focus on sesame seeds!

    Greg Feirman  ·  Nov 17, 2017 at 4:28 pm  ·  Permalink
  • Wow Greg, if I were you I would take this embarrassing blog down. Been a long time since I’ve seen anyone more wrong in predicting economic recovery in markets than you’ve been here.

    Vann  ·  Dec 18, 2018 at 2:49 pm  ·  Permalink
  • I get Brian’s weekly reports and find him to have no ethics. In my opinion, an economist has a duty to the public to be honest and forthright. Brian does not have any integrity. I honestly think he gets paid to play the opposition. I’m sure there is money to play the opposing role, but he’s blatantly dishonest with the public. The highest and best use of his weekly reports are in the recycle bin.

    Ajay  ·  Jan 15, 2019 at 10:18 pm  ·  Permalink
  • I am no Wesbury fanboy. But “Brian got lucky. It’s not over yet.” After 8 years, you it’s not over yet? At what point *is* an economic prediction made in 2009 over? Wesbury claimed we were at the start of a recovery. We were entering a recovery. He was right. Even when that recovery comes to an end, he’ll have been right.

    Perhaps he’s only right because he got lucky. But regardless, he’s right. You also made a “prediction”: “If I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to say it.”

    You were wrong. Maybe just because he “got lucky” but you were wrong. It’s much too late for you to be “the first” to say so, but you can and should admit it.

    Jon Marcus  ·  Feb 5, 2019 at 2:05 pm  ·  Permalink
  • Still looks like Brian was right. March, 2019–market still going up–but this stupid article still comes up when one Google’s Brian S. Wesbury.

    Martin E Knight  ·  Mar 19, 2019 at 2:25 pm  ·  Permalink

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