Most of this summer was dominated by the dual fears of a trade war and a recession. A weakening of underlying economic data backed up the view that we may be headed for a recession, and the long yield curve inversion only heightened those fears. However, new economic data is providing a pretty strong rebuttal to those ideas. The last four economic releases, including home sales, jobless claims and beyond, have all come back more strongly than forecast.
FINSUM: The economy never looked that bad, as it was mostly the yield curve and trade war that pushed fears of a downturn. Accordingly, we don’t think these recent data releases will have much of an effect one way or the other.
New data just released shows the US economy is a bit weaker than everyone expected. Second quarter GDP data has been revised downward, showing that the US expanded at only 2.0% in the quarter instead of the first-reported 2.1%. Government spending, weaker exports, and private inventories weighed on the numbers. However, the very good news in the data is that consumer spending increase was the strongest in 4.5 years.
FINSUM: Consumer spending is at its highest levels since 2014 at the same time as bond yields are at extraordinary lows and everyone is worried about a recession. Either a recession will arrive or there will be some big losses in bond markets.
We guarantee that we have a great recession signal in hand that you have not been paying attention to: RV sales. Yes, you read that right, RV (recreation vehicle) sales. Elkhart, Indiana is the epicenter of motorhome production, and their product has proven to be a reliable recession indicator. “The RV industry is better at calling recessions than economists are”, says one economics professor at Ball State University. The big worry is that shipments of RVs are down 20% this year, a big drop.
FINSUM: This seems like a classic consumer discretionary spending leading indicator. And it is not looking good right now.
We are back in the weird world of the 2013-2016 era. Remember the time when weak/moderate economic news was great for stock prices? Welcome back. Investors are hoping that economic data trends flat or just a tiny bit weak, which would cause the Fed to loosen policy. However, if the economy does well, that would lead to tighter monetary conditions, which investors don’t favor. Therefore, right now, bad economic news is good for the market, and vice versa.
FINSUM: We have always found these kind of “goldilocks” scenarios rather perverse, but they are the reality nonetheless.
The market seems like it is hurdling towards the same conclusion it experienced last year—a big fourth quarter reversal. This time though, it won’t come because of worries over rate hikes, but fears for the economy itself. Stocks have been on an extraordinary run this year with the S&P 500 up over 20% and the Nasdaq up over 25%, but it all looks likely to reverse. P/E ratios have jumped from an average of 13x to over 17x, all at the same time as the global and US economy is looking more vulnerable.
FINSUM: We think a market reversal will likely come in step with economic signals. If a rate cut actually works to stimulate the economy, then it seems much less likely there will be a correction/bear market like last year.