As we bid adios to 2016 and anticipate 2017, many of the 'givens' from years past have vanished. The healthcare industry will almost certainly undergo another sea-change, like it did in 2010 with Obama Care. Taxes are apt to fall significantly with both a White House and Congress on parallel courses to cut virtually all tax rates, corporate and personal. International trade is headed for a shakeup as Mr. Trump promises to end or re-negotiate all major agreements on the table and in force that in his view unfairly penalize American interests. Major federally-funded construction projects will renovate highways, bridges, dams, waterways, and airports, but which ones and at what cost to the debt? Immigration laws will be strenuously enforced, impacting families, sanctuary cities, farms, and high tech companies dependent on lower cost visa workers. And foreign policy? If there ever was a case of 'out of the frying pan and into the fire,' we are there. The world is a mess and likely to to get messier, unless and until American diplomacy, backed by credibility and power, is reestablished.
2014 marked another good year for the stock market. With a 13.7% gain including dividends, the S&P 500 finished in positive territory for the sixth year in a row. The market never goes up in a straight line and 2014 was no different. Several major geopolitical events including Ebola, ISIS, plummeting oil prices and the Russian invasion of Ukraine caused volatility during the year. In fact, the S&P 500 fell 7.2% from its September 18 peak before bouncing back in late October and November. Here's a chart of the S&P 500's 2014.
In a busy week for economic reports, the standout was that the US economy contracted in the first quarter by a 2.9% annualized rate, the most since the depths of the last recession. According to Bloomberg, it marked the biggest downward revision from the agency’s second GDP estimate since records began in 1976. The revision reflected slowdowns in consumer and health care spending. Many economists are saying the drop was not reflective of the broader fundamentals, blaming much of the decline on weather. Maybe, but consumers don't appear to be buying it. Real consumer spending was down 0.2% in April and 0.1% in May, and the weather was good. Durable goods (designed to last long periods) orders were much weaker than expected for May as they fell 1.0% in May after rising 0.8% in April. Transportation was the largest contributor to the decline falling 3.0% after a 1.7% rise in April.
Concerns over a big drop in the stock market are likely exaggerated. The Federal Reserve, under Janet Yellen, has shown continued willingness to prevent collapse. But a more troubling concern is being discussed in some circles; that the expectation the US economy will soon return...