Good News, Bad News: Parsing The Difference

Whether for my personal life or investment portfolio, I often turn to Buddhist philosophy for guidance. I’m always mindful that “good” news can give birth to “bad” news, and vice versa. Think of a yin and yang symbol bleeding its black and white onto one another. Good and bad…it’s all the same.

Consider the deleterious effects on the stock market this week of positive economic data. Recent reports of robust economic activity potentially diminish the urgency for interest rate cuts; hopes for rate cuts this year have been a key pillar of the market rally. Wall Street’s mood has turned bad lately because the economy is good.

Which should investors prefer? Stronger growth or a more accommodative Fed? Let’s examine the paradox.

Stocks have pulled back this week on the increasing likelihood of fewer interest rate cuts this year. Equity markets have started the new quarter on a down note, after surpassing all-time highs last week. This weakness has been fueled by worries that U.S. economic growth and climbing crude oil prices could prompt the inflation-fighters at the Federal Reserve to postpone rate cuts.

Crude oil prices have been rising, breaching the level of $85 per barrel for the first time since October. The Israel-Hamas war has metastasized into a humanitarian crisis. Although Gaza isn’t a center of oil production, the adjacent Arab and Persian nations certainly are.

Rising tensions in the region are stoking concerns about supply disruptions. Other factors driving crude prices higher are OPEC+ production curbs and accelerating economic growth.

Bonds are under pressure, with the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yield (TNX) hitting the worrisome level of 4.36%, the highest since November. The sentiment on Wall Street has shifted from dovish hopes to fears of higher-for-longer rates. This mood also is shoring up the U.S. dollar, with the greenback near a two-month high against other major currencies.

Recent economic data indicate a thriving U.S. economy, which has been another pillar of the bull market. The Purchasing Managers’ Index for March, released Tuesday, showed an unexpected expansion in U.S. manufacturing for the first time since September 2022.

The Manufacturing PMI registered 50.3% in March, up 2.5 percentage points from the 47.8% recorded in February. The overall economy continued in expansion for the 47th month after one month of contraction in April 2020.

The current betting on Wall Street is that we’ll now see fewer rate cuts than the three the Fed signaled following the meeting in March of the policy-making Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on Tuesday released its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), which showed that job openings held steady to start the year (see chart).

However, the ratio of vacancies to unemployed workers is falling, indicating that the supply and demand for labor is coming into better balance, helping ease wage pressures.

As with the broader economy, the labor market has been resilient so far this year, but it is gradually cooling. Friday’s report is expected to show that the U.S. economy added 215,000 jobs in March, with unemployment ticking down to 3.8%.

Chair Jerome Powell has signaled that policymakers are less concerned about the strength of the labor market, which makes the upcoming consumer price index (CPI) data on April 12 more likely to move rate expectations and markets.

From my perspective, I’d rather see healthy growth rather than the alternative, despite the ramifications on monetary policy. Even with fewer rate cuts this year, sustained economic growth and a manufacturing recovery will boost corporate profits and hence prolong the bull market.

Stocks had gotten pricey; I view the current downturn as healthy. A solid economy remains the backdrop; pullbacks in quality stocks are buying opportunities.

The recent swoon in equities is yet another situation when “bad” is really “good.” Don’t get whipsawed by headlines. Stick to your long-term goals.

As central banks move markets via monetary policy decisions, investors have sought refuge in decentralized assets such as Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH), which are perceived as immune to government manipulation and control.

Additionally, advancements in blockchain technology and decentralized finance (DeFi) have expanded the utility and functionality of cryptocurrencies, attracting a broader audience of investors and users.

Every portfolio should have exposure to crypto. But you need to be informed, to make the right choices. The experts at Investing Daily have done the homework for you.

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John Persinos is the editorial director of Investing Daily.

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This article previously appeared on Investing Daily.