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Ho-Hum Economics – Weekly Views from the Corner, June 2, 2017

We open up the unofficial summer season with an important release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in regards to employment growth for the month of May.  Per the BLS, the U.S. economy added 138,000 new jobs resulting in a disappointment relative to the pre-release expectations of 185,000.  In addition, the BLS revised the previously released April result lower to 174,000 from the original 211,000 level and the March result lower to 50,000 from the original release of 79,000.

With this updated employment release we now see the U.S. economy averaged 121,000 new jobs for the three month period of March – May.  This compares to the December – February average of 201,000 resulting in a significant decrease in the most recent three month average.  Furthermore, for the previous 12 months, the U.S. economy averaged 190,000 new jobs per month which also underlines the deceleration in employment growth of late.

For many months now we have been sharing various economic releases sprinkled throughout these Weekly Views and we have consistently labeled them as ho-hum, pedestrian, middle-of-the-road type of results.  In the above even the 12 month average of 190,000 new jobs per month barely covers population growth.  With this, the ho-hum description fits with the referenced longer-term average as well.

commercial loans

Moving away from the employment backdrop the above chart speaks to the percentage change from the previous year for Commercial and Industrial Loans.  The loan growth rates for this segment are important being the projects they represent are foundation pieces for economic growth.

The chart reflects the previous five years and the trend depicted speaks for itself.  When viewing this data in a multi-decade format there are no silver bullet type growth rate levels that offer recession is imminent but historically notable downtrends led to a heightened risk of recession.  In some cases, downtrends had barely started and recession had begun.

The above multi-year downtrend has picked up downside momentum in the last 12 months or more and is now only marginally above a 2% growth rate.  For this measure, ho-hum is beginning to turn to concerning.

Going around the market and economic horn if you will, we have seen market behaviors developing that suggest the markets are taking note of these type of weakening results.

Bank stocks, for example, are now solidly negative in their performance for 2017 while the bond market has now fully erased its post-election enthusiasm by trending its yield curve to a now lower pre-election level.  In addition, the U.S. Dollar has also erased its post-election uptrend as it now sits at early October levels.

The bottom line is we simply need more growth to support the historically high levels our current stock market resides at from a valuation perspective.  Simply, the stock market is expensive relative to the underlying economic growth that ultimately supports it.  This is an on-going concern as we know history offers highly valued markets leaves them vulnerable to notable pullbacks if said growth refuses to show up.

I wish you well……..

Ken Reinhart

Director, Market Research & Portfolio Analysis

This commentary is presented only to provide perspectives on investment strategies and opportunities. The material contains opinions of the author, which are subject to markets change without notice. Statements concerning financial market trends are based on current market conditions which fluctuate. References to specific securities and issuers are for descriptive purposes only and are not intended to be, and should not be interpreted as, recommendations to purchase or sell such securities. There is no guarantee that any investment strategy will work under all market conditions. Each investor should evaluate their ability to invest for the long-term, especially during periods of downturn in the market. PERFORMANCE IS NOT GUARANTEED AND LOSSES CAN OCCUR WITH ANY INVESTMENT STRATEGY.

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