Pessimists are on vacation this week. It doesn’t matter that the indexes are overbought. That markets are hitting new highs without a pause. It’s Christmas and Hanukkah week. The Big Guy has come to town.
Of course investors have had a little help from the Fed and the latest revision of U.S. third quarter GDP. It appears that the economy grew faster than economists expected. Would you believe 5%? That’s one barn burner of a number even for me, an uber bull on the economy. It is the fastest the economy has grown in 11 years. It follows on the tail of a 4.6% rate in the second quarter.
Consumer spending on health care and business investment in infrastructure and computers were largely responsible for that growth. And just think, we have yet to benefit from the continuing drop in gas prices, which are now about $2.33/gallon on average and predicted to drop another 11 cents or so over this weekend.
Many economists think that growth will slow this, the last quarter of 2014, not a difficult bet to make, but I still think growth will continue to surprise all of us. Consumption is gaining ground and the consumer is finally starting to hit his stride. I think fourth quarter growth will be better than anyone imagines. That’s why the Fed is prepared to raise interest rates next year. None of us want the economy to overheat, sparking an uptick in inflation.
My strategy so far this year has been to listen to the Fed. By hiking rates a little next year (while China, Japan and Europe lower theirs), the Federal Reserve could be in a “sweet spot.” Any slowing due to our rate increase could be offset by lower rates (and higher growth) elsewhere in the world. It is one reason why I like the Chinese and Japanese markets. I would throw Europe into that mix, but I am not convinced that Europe’s central bank has the green light from all the EU members to launch a U.S.-style quantitative easing.
As for the stock markets, it is clear that the Santa Claus rally has begun early. It traditionally occurs during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Explanations vary for exactly why this occurs. Some say it is end-of-year bonus money finding its way into stocks. Others argue that tax-selling ends during that week, while others just believe the ‘feel good” behavior of most investors during this period is responsible.
Some investors could also be getting a jump on what is called the “January Effect.” The month of January is normally an up month for stocks. Given the strong economic data, lower fuel costs and anticipation of strong consumer spending during this holiday season, investors are anticipating many companies will “surprise on the upside” in the upcoming earnings season.
Be that as it may, I want to wish everyone an extremely joyous holiday season. As for me, readers should be aware that on January 5th I am getting a total right knee replacement. The doctors say I should be out of a commission for a few weeks. I will endeavor to disregard their advice and continue to write as best I can. Wish me luck.