And earnings trends (3-month average):
And the overall picture:
Starting from a lower baseline than the 2001-3 recessionary/depressed time, the 2008-9 very depressed period now shows a 4-year post-recession period that continues to look similar to the 2003-7 period.
Most small businesspeople are not seeing inflation, so to them, the Fed's ZIRP makes sense. Many investors, however, refuse to believe that the pace of business may wax and wane on its own cycle. They insist that substantial and sustained nominal sales and earnings growth is coming.
Ever since the Fed became operational in peacetime, say from 1920 on, or in the post-WW II period, a new recession has occurred about every 5 1/2 years. It is now 5 1/3 years since the onset of the Great Recession.
Anything of course can occur. The US can be Australia or Chile and go 20 years between recessions. Or it can be more like Japan and have a recession while short-term interest rates are near zero.
The small business sector is seeing no price inflation. Absent Federal deficits backed by QE from the Fed, I would think that it would be seeing price deflation.
Thus, the current interest rate structure has justification from what small businesses are experiencing. The renewed downtrend in several parameters shown by the charts above are similar to what started to be seen in 2006, as the real economy turned down but a combination of bubble housing activities and exports buoyed the aggregates. Is past prologue?