Don’t Get Sidetracked
February 2, 2018
The January jobs report this morning was strong. The number of new jobs came in well above consensus at 200,000, paced by construction (+36,000) and education and health (+38,000).
That’s good news, right? So why is the market down so much?
The big headline is the spike in wages, which climbed 2.9% year-over-year, the fastest pace in more than eight years. That has Wall Street mavens squawking about inflation and bond yields. Main Street, on the other hand, is looking to the heavens and saying thank you.
The market is under pressure today and has been choppier all week, and that is just fine with me. I have been looking for value, and I’m expecting this to create good buying opportunities.
One could argue the market saw this strength coming, so this is just selling on the news. I have no problem with that kind of thinking, but investors should not let themselves get sidetracked by this kind of Wall Street action. After all, this is just the latest piece of very good news for the economy, which in turn is very good news for the stock market over the longer term.
Other good news includes earnings, which are coming in very strong. Guidance is typically cautious but bodes well for the market and speaks to a solid underlying economy.
Another round of robust economic numbers in manufacturing and construction got the folks at the Atlanta Fed to hike their first-quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimate to 5.4% from 4.2%. This would be remarkable as the fourth-quarter 2017 estimate has been revised closer to 3%. The U.S. economy has only pierced 5% in two quarters since the onset of the Great Recession. This is certainly shaping up to be the best string of quarterly GDP numbers in a long time.
Then there is the consumer. Yesterday, Lowe’s (LOW) joined the chorus of companies doling out goodies because of tax cuts, and a lot of that cash will go straight into the economy. This morning, MasterCard (MA) posted strong results, thanks in part to the continued use of credit cards in the United States.
I understand that some see this as a red flag, but I think it’s a gauge of confidence at the moment. Back in 2005, credit card usage outpaced debit cards by a 160% margin, but the Great Recession got people to spend what they had in the bank, sending debit card usage ahead. That lead is narrowing, as folks are earning more and have more faith in the economy, which also means that they are buying bigger-ticket items.
Speaking of big-ticket items, I have to mention Apple (AAPL), which posted better revenue and earnings than expected. Although iPhone sales of 77 million were short of consensus, the average selling price of $796 was more than a $100 above a year ago, and much better than analysts anticipated. It seems as though folks are forking over $1,000 for those iPhoneX smartphones.
For now, the stock market should be just fine despite any horror stories you may have heard about it being so good that it can only lead to things like a hard landing or aggressive Federal Reserve action. The animal spirits now at work and optimism for the future are powerful forces. We can cross any speed bumps if they materialize, but for now, enjoy the great American revival and continue growing your wealth.