Is This Economic Recovery Starting To Fade?

By Neal St. Anthony
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Financial services and real estate markets usually signal the future. And there’s some anecdotal and statistical evidence those markets are tiring. Columnist Neal St. Anthony shares a few observations.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Has this economy peaked?

The recently dinged stock market has yet to crimp strong consumer and small-business confidence, near record-low unemployment, and wages for working stiffs that finally are registering meaningful increases.

However, nearly a decade into the longest post-WWII economic recovery, there are some concerns about staying power.

Few are suggesting a market crash a la 2008-2009, or even a recession. Maybe a slowdown.

Financial services and real estate markets usually signal the future. And there’s some anecdotal and statistical evidence those markets are tiring. A few observations:

-The stock market is increasingly volatile and flat for the year. That follows a 250 percent run of the S&P 500 from March 2009 through 2017, including reinvested dividends. The 23 percent 2017 surge was spurred by anticipation of the late-year tax cut for corporations. That juiced company earnings and also led to increased levels of stock buybacks by cash-rich companies.

However, rising interest rates and concern about whether corporations can continue posting earnings increases, as well as the uncertainty about the effect of tariffs on trade has spooked some investors and fueled day-to-day spikes.

Brian Belski, chief investment strategist of New York-based BMO Capital Markets, noted last week that rising interest rates “have actually benefited stocks historically, despite conventional thinking to the contrary.”

Belski still likes a portfolio of good-performing, dividend-paying stocks in his long-term bucket. The market’s performance this year also demonstrates many investors don’t like news-driven volatility.

Jim Paulsen, the veteran economist and market strategist at Leuthold Group, was bullish until last year.

He wrote investors last week: “The underpinning of the postelection U.S. stock market has been persistently ‘better than expected’ economic growth. However, of late, cyclical stocks are collapsing relative to defensive stocks, suggesting the stock market’s primary foundation is dying!”

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