Barataria has long joked that economics is just sociology with a way of keeping score. Like most jokes, that’s an exaggeration with a kernel of truth at the heart of it. Where we should all be interested in fairly circulating wealth in a way that provides a good life for everyone and raising capital to get things done, people naturally want to know who is “winning” instead.
The stock market is the best, or worst, example of this. Where it should concentrate on raising capital for corporations, it is instead a kind of sporting match. Like any sport, it can be bet on. With the betting comes attempts to game the system which can work in the short term before it all eventually returns to the mean.
That is pretty much all that is happening right now, aside from attempts to game the overall economy with poorly considered deficits and trade wars.
The stock market is high. What gets a market feelin’ good and oblivious to everything around it is a powerful drug, one that has the ability to cloud judgement like nothing else. The opium of markets is OPM, or Other People’s Money.
Where the stock market should be feeling blue and dealing with the realities of a world unraveling with trade wars and debt, it’s taken another course. It’s decided to just get high the best way it can. In that state of euphoria none of that other stuff matters, and everything is good. We have plenty of OPM to go around.
Right now, the stock market has a serious OPM crisis that very few people are talking about.
Good news! The economy added 313k jobs in February!
Like all news, we need some kind of reality check first. Did it really? The long and short of it is that, as always, the ADP employment report is less noisy and thus more accurate. It had a gain of 263k jobs in February, which is probably the right number. Still very good news all around.
But is good news actually bad news? Along with the jobs report we have the increase in wages, which stands at a modest 2.6% over the last year. Does that mean inflation is tamed? We will see what the markets think.
We have in front of us a big week. This may determine the course of the next year or so in the stock market, the economy, and in politics.
A lot is about to happen. Let’s run it down, day by day.
We’ve made the Barataria position very clear – that current federal policy is doomed to trash the stock market and somewhat damage the overall economy. That wasn’t talking about new tariffs, however. As the mechanism for screwing things up shifts, the predictions as to how it will all go down have to shift.
So here we are, trying to make some sense of the senseless. It’s more of a crapshoot every day.
Inflation is back. What’s left to see is what anyone does about it.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for January came in at a strong 2.1% over the last 12 months. That’s above the target rate of 2.0% set by the Federal Reserve for the fourth month in a row. There will be attempts to explain it away in various ways. In the noise that will be created over this what will count is action by the Federal Reserve one way or the other.
We’ve been talking about the stock market this week, so why not end it with a bold prediction: Once the federal debt ceiling is raised, look for the stock market to utterly tank within two weeks, certainly within a month.
While there are many reasons why the market is taking at least a pause if not slouching towards a correction, the most important is the appetite for government debt. A time like this requires careful management and attention to consequences. We’re not getting it. What we have instead is mismanagement on an epic scale that will certainly spook the market and ultimately kill it.