Productivity for the third quarter of 2017 rose 3.0%, the largest one quarter increase since the third quarter of 2014 and over double the average quarterly growth rate since the start of 2009. This surge is significant, as a lack of productivity growth has been one of the main factors that has kept U.S. economic growth, as measured in gross domestic product (GDP), to an average of just 2.2% since the end of the Great Recession.
Last week marked the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s Election Day victory. The period since the president was elected has been one of the best ever for U.S. stock markets. The 28.5% rally in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow) one year after the election ranks 4 out of 31 overall among one-year post-election rallies for U.S. presidents since the inception of the Dow in 1896 [Figure 1] and is one of the best performances since World War II (WWII). The best? President Coolidge during the Roaring Twenties. The worst? Woodrow Wilson’s second term during WWI.
Recent Treasury yield curve flattening may be a warning sign from fixed income markets, but there are also arguments to suggest otherwise. Historically, an inverting yield curve has been a solid leading indicator of recessions. However, the yield curve’s recent behavior is seemingly incongruous with that of equity markets, which have continued to hit record highs throughout the year. Although the yield curve may be implying a slower growth environment than equity markets are signaling, the curve is still a long way from inverting.
Economic reports released in October 2017, which mostly reflect economic activity in September, largely exceeded expectations throughout the month. The Citi Economic Surprise Index, which measures how economic data is coming in versus expectations, rebounded strongly from negative territory in September to end October at a very strong 40.5 level. (We generally consider data to be in line with expectations when the index reads between -25 and +25). That corresponds to roughly 60% of economic reports beating estimates during the month and reflects an improving overall U.S. economy.
The Portfolio Compass provides a snapshot of LPL Financial Research’s views on equity, equity sectors, fixed income, and alternative asset classes. This monthly publication illustrates our current views and will change as needed over a 3- to 12-month time horizon. Read recent issue...
Stock markets, bond markets, the economy, policy — some years they push and pull on each other lightly as markets follow their own path; in others, one influence, such as monetary policy, dominates. But sometimes, often following a period of change, understanding the pushes and pulls and how they interact becomes a key to reassessing market dynamics for the next year and beyond.
An important shift has taken place in this economic cycle. The Federal Reserve (Fed) was finally able to start following through on its projected rate hike path, raising rates twice in just over a three-month period. By doing so, the Fed showed increasing trust that the economy has largely met its dual mandate of 2% inflation and full employment, that the economy is progressively able to stand on its own two feet, and that fiscal policy may now provide the backstop to the economy that monetary policy has provided throughout the expansion.
During any presidential election, you can expect a barrage of promises from the yard sign endorsements, bumper stickers, stump speeches, and media headlines. All pledge to improve the economy, provide better education for all, and preserve the environment.
The Economic Cycle - We believe we are in the mid-to-late stage of the current expansion, but we are still seeing some early cycle and late cycle behavior. Extended loose monetary policy, inflation, and employment growth are still exhibiting early cycle behavior, while some items relating to corporate profits are showing late cycle behavior, although they may be reset if profits improve.