The stock market and economy move in sync over the medium-long term. That’s why it’s extremely important to understand the state of a nation’s economy. Is the economic data improving or deteriorating?
Let’s take a look at U.S. economic data as of the beginning of July 2018.
Even though the U.S. unemployment rate ticked up a little, it is still trending downwards.
This is a medium-long term bullish sign for the economy. Historically, the unemployment rate tends to trend sideways or upwards before a bear market and recession begins.
The unemployment rate is extremely low right now (when compared to history). We aren’t concerned yet, but we are watching out for a sustained increase in the unemployment rate.
U.S. inflation is rising very slowly above 2%. Indicators suggest that inflation will swing between 2.5% – 3% in 2018.
*Many investors expected inflation to “surge” in 2018. This is clearly not the case.
Initial Jobless Claims and Continued Claims
Initial Jobless Claims and Continued Claims are still trending down right now. This is a long term bullish sign for the stock market because jobless claims tend to rise before a bear market and recession begins.
*Initial Jobless Claims and Continued Claims are very low right now (historically speaking). We are not concerned yet, but we are watching out for any sustained and significant increase in these 2 data series.
Nonfarm payrolls growth has been trending sideways for the past few years. Nonfarm payrolls is not a leading indicator for the stock market or economy – it’s a coincident indicator. This indicator peaks when the stock market and economy peak.
ISM Manufacturing PMI
ISM Manufacturing PMI has been trending sideways for the past year. This is a weak point in the economy. We are watching out for further deterioration in this economic data series.
Industrial Production Growth
Industrial Production’s manufacturing sector growth is still trending higher. The trend is more important than month-to-month changes. Industrial Production growth (excluding Mining & Utilities) tends to trend downwards before a recession and bear market begins.
Total vehicle sales
Vehicle sales have been trending downwards a little over the past year. This suggests that we are at least in the final quarter of this economic expansion and equities bull market.
Keep in mind that vehicle sales is an extremely early leading indicator for recessions and bear markets. Total Vehicle Sales can start to trend downwards years before a bear market and recession begins.
U.S. Consumer Sentiment continues to trend higher.
The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment indicator is not a particularly useful indicator for the economy and stock market. Sometimes it leads the economy and stock market. Sometimes it lags.
Retail Sales (inflation-adjusted)
Inflation-adjusted Retail Sales is still trending upwards. This suggests that a bear market and recession are not imminent. Historically, inflation-adjusted Retail Sales trended sideways before a bear market and recession began.
Housing has deteriorated a little in the past month. But more importantly, the TREND in housing points to continued growth. This is a medium-long term bullish sign for the economy and stock market. Historically, New Home Sales and Housing Starts trended downwards before a recession and bear market began. These are leading indicators.
U.S. economic growth is solid, although there are a few small signs of weakness. (For example, housing has dipped a little recently).
This is not a concern yet because the data is improving overall. HOWEVER, we are watching for any signs of sustained weakness in the data because the next recession will lead to a bear market in stocks (e.g. 40%+ decline). The Medium-Long Term Model states that this bull market still has 1-1.5 years left.
*It’s not the month-to-month data that matters. It’s the overall trend in the data.