Most of the time, the U.S. stock market looks to 3 factors (call them the “pillars” which support the stock market) to support its upward trend – let’s grade each of the pillars.
CONSUMER SPENDING: This grade is A- (very favorable). Favorable activity in the housing market continues to support growth in the level of spending. This category’s grade will improve if and when the Trump legislation is passed.
THE FED AND ITS POLICIES: This factor is rated C-. A slew of Federal Reserve governors spoke this week, all of them with the same message: The time has come for a rate hike. Janet Yellen, in a Friday speech, drove that message home, signaling the Fed would probably raise interest rates at its two-day meeting that ends on March 15. Some worry the Fed could risk undermining the recovery.
BUSINESS PROFITABILITY: This factor’s grade is raised to a B (above average). Fourth-quarter earnings are on pace to grow by 8.4%, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, nearly double the 4.3% gain reported during the third. And analysts see earnings advancing at a double-digit clip during 2017’s first two quarters. Now it’s earnings that are driving shares higher. “With earnings turning positive,” they said, “we have a solid catalyst for 2017 turning out to be a good year.”
OTHER CONCERNS: The “Heat Map” is indicating the U.S. stock market is in OK shape ASSUMING no international crisis. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest level of crisis, we rate these international risks collectively as a 3. These risks deserve our ongoing attention.