No, We’re Not Living in a “Mad Max” World

During this year’s presidential race, you’re hearing a lot of doom-and-gloom descriptions about the state of our country and its economy. Listening to some of the lurid political rhetoric, you’d think the U.S. currently resembles the dystopian action film Mad Max.

But it just ain’t so. If you make investment decisions based on these false narratives, you’ll lose money. Here are the facts: The economy, stock market, businesses, and consumers are doing well. Below, I’ll show you how to position your portfolio for what promises to be a prosperous year.

Let’s start with the latest U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) report, for the fourth quarter and full-year 2023, which was released on January 25.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the U.S. economy grew 2.5% year-over-year in 2023. That represents robust growth indeed, for a year when many experts predicted a recession. The economy grew by only 1.9% in 2022 (see chart).

Here’s a breakdown of U.S. GDP growth in 2023 by quarter: Q4: 3.3%; Q3: 4.9%; Q2: 2.1%; and Q1: 2.2%. American carnage? Hardly.

Meanwhile, inflation has dramatically fallen, the Federal Reserve has reached the end of its tightening cycle, corporate earnings growth is bouncing back, the unemployment rate hovers at a 50-year low, and consumer spending has been strong.

The Commerce Department reported on January 17 that retail sales rose 0.6% last month after an unrevised 0.3% gain in November. Economists had forecast retail sales would gain 0.4%. Sales increased 5.6% on a year-on-year basis in December.

After several months of unwarranted pessimism about the economy, it appears that the American public is finally getting the word. The University of Michigan reported on January 22 that its widely watched consumer sentiment index had risen 13% to 78.8 in January, while inflation expectations edged lower from December.

After a stellar 2023, U.S. stocks have continued their upward trajectory this year, albeit in choppy fashion as geopolitical uncertainties stoke fears that inflation might (just might) tick higher. Investors have grown a tad more cautious, but the rally rolls on.

Over the past week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 have been on a winning streak, notching a series of new closing highs.

Big economic news is scheduled to arrive tomorrow, with the release of the latest personal consumption expenditures index (PCE) report for the month of December. Expectations are for core PCE (which excludes food and energy) to rise by 3% year-over-year, down from the November reading of 3.2%.

Investment Opportunities to Watch in 2024

Tune out the partisan media’s blatant lies about the economy. As the new year unfolds, the following sectors, industries, and asset classes look particularly promising now:

  • Technology

The continued integration of advanced technology, e.g., artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud-based collaboration, into various industries and the potential for strong earnings growth position the tech leaders of 2023 for further gains in 2024. AI-mania should proceed apace this year.

  • Renewable Energy

The need to address climate change, government initiatives, and new “green” innovations are tailwinds for renewable energy stocks (especially solar power), as well as electric vehicles. The commodities needed to tap these sources of energy, such as lithium and cobalt, also are poised to rise over the long term.

  • Health Care and Biotechnology

We’re witnessing groundbreaking advancements in medical research and health delivery, notably in gene editing. Biotech firms are editing DNA to treat and prevent a wide range of ailments and diseases. Health services stocks performed poorly last year but that’s already starting to change.

  • Cryptocurrencies

There’s an accelerating acceptance and integration of cryptocurrencies into mainstream finance. Crypto soared in 2023 and has set the stage for a new bull run in 2024, amid the advent of crypto-based exchange-traded funds.

However, cryptocurrency markets are known for high volatility. Technical analysis should guide your short-term trading decisions in crypto.

  • Dividend Payers

As interest rates fall, the appeal of dividend stocks increases. Traditional fixed-income investments like bonds may offer lower yields in a low-interest-rate environment, making dividend-paying stocks more attractive for income-seeking investors.

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John Persinos is the editorial director of Investing Daily.

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This article previously appeared on Investing Daily.