The winter storm that recently tore across the northeastern United States will, no doubt, take the blame for the continuing weak economic news and data that have been coming out of Wall Street. Having been the economic scapegoat since December, there’s no reason to change tactics.
But the raft of ongoing disappointing economic news and data suggests there’s more to the nation’s weak economic news than cold weather. After all, it’s not as if the U.S. economy had been red-hot and then suddenly hit a brick wall in December. If there’s one thing the U.S. economy has been—it’s consistently weak.
For example, while the S&P 500 and other stock indices have been enjoying prolonged bull runs, the U.S. economy has been stalling. Since the magical bull market began in 2008, the U.S. unemployment numbers have remained stubbornly high and the underemployment numbers eye-wateringly high. At the same time, wages are stagnant and, not surprisingly, retail sales have disappointed. More and more Americans are saddled with out-of-control debt and a record 20% of American households (one in five) were on food stamps in 2013.
Speaking of 2013, while the S&P 500 notched up a 30% annual gain, each quarter, an increasingly larger percentage of companies revised their earnings guidance lower. Saving the best for last, during the fourth quarter of 2013, a record 88% of S&P 500 companies that provided preannouncements issued negative earnings guidance.
But 2014 didn’t start out that well, either. For the first quarter of 2014 so far, 80% of the S&P 500 companies that have issued guidance revised their earnings lower; this compares to the 78% of … Read More