In spite of the fact that our national economy continues to chug at a painfully slow annual rate of plus or minus 2 percent, it thus far refuses to stall into recession. Even though the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has not fallen in a quarter since early 2014 with that drop apparently due to the horrendous winter weather two years ago, some are predicting the required two negative quarters in a row will come much sooner than later.
While the 2015 revenues of the S&P 500 companies shrank, GDP according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis rose by 1 percent in Q4, revised upward February 26th from a preliminary figure of .7 percent of January 29th. That finishes the year with an average growth of 1.875 percent. That said, the third and fourth quarters showed much less growth rate than the strong Q2 of 3.9. (www.bea.gov).
We all know this saying: a recession is when your neighbor has lost his or her job, but a depression is when you have lost yours. As always, economic weather affects various industries differently. A stronger dollar relative to the euro and a few other currencies have hurt exports. The largest companies are clearly global in reach. Thus S&P 500 companies actually had lower revenue in 2015 than the prior year.
Worldwide trade volumes also fell and some are using that fact to predict worldwide cataclysmic recession or worse. Brian Wesbury of First Trust points out that when one considers the drastic reduction in the price of oil in the past year, it is no wonder that world exports have fallen. During February industry meetings, I heard rational discussions of the stock sell off in January coming from pressure of selling by Mideast oil countries of their stocks in our markets not being offset by corporations’ purchases of their own stock due to the “quiet periods” surrounding earnings report releases. Huge volumes of sales were not the problem—there were just not enough buyers relative to typical market periods.
Meanwhile, domestic business is growing. Our employment picture continues to improve. Civilian employment, a term which includes small business starts, has grown by over half a million in the past year. When added to regular employees, the growth has been about 2.7 million added. Auto sales continue at high rates, although loans are again available to those able to fog mirrors. So we probably did not learn anything in the past decade about loose credit. Everyone still deserves a house and auto whether one can afford it or not.
Otherwise, our domestic income is rising and consumers are in relatively good shape. Most are saving as well as spending moderately more on goods and services. The services industries are booming. For more on these subjects, you can visit www.ftportfolios.com/retail/blogs/economics/index.aspx for the Monday Morning Outlook by Mssrs. Wesbury and Bob Stein.
For these reasons, I do not believe any recession is imminent. This would also explain why Mr. Market suddenly flipped a switch, moved upward and cannot seem to pull off a decent breather, at least until yesterday (Tuesday, the 8th). Waves will continue but the death of all of the bulls has probably been greatly exaggerated.
(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Advice is intended to be general in nature.)