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Economic Indicators

The U.S. economy is a very complex system, with indicators therefore ambiguous and difficult to interpret. To what degree do macroeconomics and the stock market go hand-in-hand, if at all? Do investors/traders: (1) react to economic readings; (2) anticipate them; or, (3) just muddle along, mostly fooled by randomness? These blog entries address relationships between economic indicators and the stock market.

Inflation Forecast Update

The Inflation Forecast now incorporates actual total and core Consumer Price Index (CPI) data for January 2024. The actual total (core) inflation rate is a little lower than (about the same as) forecasted.

Treasury Yields and Inflation Lead-lag

Which comes first, adjustments in U.S. Treasuries yields across the term structure, or government announcement of new U.S. inflation data? To investigate, we relate monthly changes in yields for 1-year, 2-year, 3-year, 5-year, 7-year, 10-year, 20-year and 30-year U.S. Treasuries (GS1 through GS30) to monthly change in overall raw Consumer Price Index (CPI) for various leads and lags. Using monthly yields (average daily yields during a month) for Treasuries as available and monthly CPI during April 1953 through December 2023, we find that:

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Commercial and Industrial Credit as a Stock Market Driver

Does commercial and industrial (C&I) credit fuel business growth and thereby drive the stock market? To investigate, we relate changes in credit standards from the Federal Reserve Board’s quarterly Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices to future U.S. stock market returns. Presumably, loosening (tightening) of credit standards is good (bad) for stocks. The Federal Reserve publishes survey results a few days after the end of the first month of each quarter (January, April, July and October). Using as-released “Net Percentage of Domestic Respondents Tightening Standards for C&I Loans” for large and medium businesses from the Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices Chart Data for the second quarter of 1990 through the fourth quarter of 2023 (136 surveys), and contemporaneous S&P 500 Index quarterly returns (aligned to survey months), we find that: Keep Reading

FFR Actions, Stock Market Returns and Bond Yields

Do Federal Funds Rate (FFR) actions taken by the Federal Reserve open market operations committee reliably predict stock market and U.S. Treasuries yield reactions? To investigate, we use the S&P 500 Index (SP500) as a proxy for the stock market and the yield for the 10-Year U.S. Constant Maturity Treasury note (T-note). We look at index returns and changes in T-note yield during the one and two months after FFR actions, separately for FFR increases and FFR decreases. Using data for the three series during January 1990 through December 2023, we find that:

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Federal Surplus/Deficit and Stock Returns

Does the level of, or change in, the annual U.S. federal surplus/deficit systematically influence the U.S. stock market, perhaps by affecting consumption and thereby corporate earnings or by modifying inflation and thereby discount rates? To check, we relate annual stock market returns to the annual surplus/deficit (receipts minus outlays) as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). We align stock market returns with surplus/deficit calculations (federal fiscal years, FY) as follows: (1) prior to 1977, we calculate annual returns from July through June; (2) we ignore the July 1976 through September 1976 transition quarter; and, (3) since 1977, we calculate annual returns from October through September. Using surplus/deficit data and monthly returns for the S&P 500 Index (SP500) as a proxy for the U.S. stock market during FY 1930 through FY 2023 (about 94 years), we find that: Keep Reading

Leading Economic Index and the Stock Market

The Conference Board “publishes leading, coincident, and lagging indexes designed to signal peaks and troughs in the business cycle for major economies around the world,” including the widely cited Leading Economic Index (LEI) for the U.S. Does LEI predict stock market behavior? Using the as-released monthly change in LEI from archived Conference Board press releases and contemporaneous dividend-adjusted daily levels of SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) for June 2002 through November 2023 (257 monthly LEI observations), we find that: Keep Reading

Public Debt, Inflation and the Stock Market

When the U.S. government runs substantial deficits, some experts proclaim the dollar’s inevitable inflationary debasement and bad times for stocks. Other experts say that deficits are no cause for alarm, because government spending stimulates the economy, and the country can bear more debt. Who is right? Using quarterly nominal level of the U.S. public debtinterest expense on the debtU.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), S&P 500 Index level (SP500) and consumer price index (CPI) as available during January 1966 (limited by public debt data) through September 2023 (about 58 years), we find that: Keep Reading

Personal Saving Rate and the Stock Market

Is public saving rate a leading indicator of the stock market? Arguably, an increase (decrease) in saving rate means a shift away from (toward) consumption, corporate earnings and associated stock value. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) releases seasonally adjusted Personal Saving Rate (PSR) monthly with a lag of about one month for initial release and two additional months for revisions. Using this series and monthly S&P 500 Index level during January 1959 through September 2023, we find that…
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Disposable Personal Income and the Stock Market

A reader asked: “Is disposable income a leading indicator of the stock market?” Arguably, an increase in disposable income could spur consumption, corporate earnings and associated stock values. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) releases seasonally adjusted Disposable Personal Income (DPI) monthly with a lag of about one month for initial release and two additional months for revisions. Using this series and monthly S&P 500 Index level during January 1959 through September 2023, we find that…

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Asset Class Reactions to Monthly Inflation Data

How do individual asset classes react to monthly inflation indications? To investigate, we relate future monthly returns for the following 10 asset class exchange-traded fund (ETF) proxies to monthly changes in the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI):

  • Equities:
    • SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
    • iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
    • iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
    • iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
  • Bonds:
    • iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
    • iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
    • iShares JPMorgan Emerging Markets Bond Fund (EMB)
  • Real assets:
    • Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
    • SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
    • Invesco DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)

Using monthly CPI data (all items) and monthly dividend-adjusted returns for the above 10 asset class proxy ETFs as available from July 2002 through September 2023, we find that: Keep Reading

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