You shouldn’t worry too much about the markets. That which most defines the nation’s economic health — the hard data — is positive.
For a start, GDP growth in the final quarter of 2017 was 2.6 percent, and is expected to rise to more than 4 percent for the first quarter of 2018. But that’s just the start.
Job growth remains strong and growing business confidence is likely to continue rising in light of corporate tax reform. Banking and finance companies also hold strong capitalization positions and consumer confidence is at record highs.
While it’s true that sudden strong wage growth has some economists concerned about inflation, the nation’s 2.1 percent inflation rate gives the Federal Reserve breathing space on future interest rate decisions. Sensible investors knew this well before the markets started sputtering a few days ago.
All in all, these data points indicate an economy in good health, well positioned for continuing growth. So what’s going on with the markets?
Investors seem to have yielded to the belief that the market is overvalued. Panic has spread and sales along with it. If this might seem like simple analysis it is, but remember, there’s a reason that the best investors do the best during transitory moments of doubt and market downturn.
Perhaps the best evidence for the irrational fear theory is the tickers. After all, the rapid multi-point shifts recorded by the Dow and Nasdaq tickers suggests that investors don’t really know what they are doing. Some are panic selling, others are buying up assets of what they perceive are now undervalued stocks, and others are just sitting back and watching. But there is no widespread, escalating sell-off that would reflect a systemic crisis.
Correspondingly, we should relax here. The invisible hand will ensure the market sorts itself out to better comport with the strong economy.
That is, however, with one curveball caveat: President Trump.
While the president’s economic record is unambiguously impressive, Trump’s temperament and lingering concerns as to what might happen with special counsel Mueller are curve balls that might quickly send the markets spiraling. Consider how the markets might react, for example, if Trump fires Mueller and instigates a constitutional crisis, or if he tweets something like:
Yet absent those developments, keep breathing freely. The markets are sitting on solid economic ground.
NOTE: An earlier version of this piece stated that 4th quarter 2017 U.S. growth was 3.2 percent. In fact, it was 2.6 percent. The piece has been updated accordingly.