Sunday, July 26, 2020

An Economic Tailwind Would Be Favorable For Stocks

With the consumer accounting for nearly 70% of economic activity, this past week's jobs report came in on the disappointing side of the ledger. With state governors continuing to pause some reopening of their respective states, it is not a surprise that the jobs report disappointed. Claims on a non-seasonally adjusted basis fell, but declined less than consensus expectations. The bigger issue in my view is the number of continuing claims of all individuals for all the unemployment programs. The total number of individuals receiving benefits equals nearly 32 million. That is an unemployment rate over 21%. The headline continuing claims number is reported at 16.4 million, but does not include the recently established large Pandemic Unemployment Assistance category which totals 13.2 million individuals. These are persons who do not qualify for typical unemployment benefits.

As I so often write, the market is not necessarily the economy and vice versa. Mostly the equity market is forward looking while the economic data is a snapshot in the rear-view mirror. Emotion took over in the market pullback from February's high to the March 23 low. Since that low, the S&P 500 Index has climbed 43.72% on a nearly uninterrupted basis. Since early June though the S&P 500 index has traded sideways and closed Friday at 3,215.66, which is below the market's June 8 level of 3,232.39. A bit of a breather in the market's advance is not a surprise. A rising wedge pattern has formed and a sustainable breakdown below the green support line would be a negative for the Index in the short run, conversely, a break above resistance would be positive.

On a positive technical note, the cumulative new highs-new lows line continues to move higher as the daily new highs-new lows is moving higher as well. So long as the cumulative total remains above its 10 day moving average, this is one technical sign of an equity market that wants to move higher.

From and economic perspective, in our Spring Investor Letter, we commented on the Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti business conditions index. This index is updated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and according to the Philadelphia Fed, "the index is designed to track real business conditions at high observation frequency. Its underlying (seasonally adjusted) economic indicators blend high-frequency and low-frequency data.
  • weekly initial jobless claims,
  • monthly payroll employment,
  • monthly industrial production,
  • monthly real personal income less transfer payments,
  • monthly real manufacturing and trade sales; and
  • quarterly real GDP)
The average value of the ADS index is zero. Progressively bigger positive values indicate progressively better-than-average conditions, whereas progressively more negative values indicate progressively worse-than-average conditions. The ADS index may be used to compare business conditions at different times. A value of -3.0, for example, would indicate business conditions noticeably worse than at any time in either the 1990-91 or the 2001 recession, during which the ADS index never dropped below -2.0." Others have recently commented on the ADS index and readers interested in more insight can read more here.

Although the current positive value is down from just over 9.0 in mid June, the index remains at a favorable 6.7, however, the declining trend is a sign of a potential slowing in the economy.

At the end of the day, it is important that state economies continue opening up and businesses bring individuals back to work. With the equity market's forward looking bias, a pick up, and a not slowdown, in economic activity is a tailwind that would help sustain the equity market advance.

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