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Federal Deficit and Stock Returns

January 7, 2021 • Posted in Economic Indicators

Does the level of, or change in, the annual U.S. federal deficit systematically influence the U.S. stock market, perhaps by stimulating consumption and thereby lifting corporate earnings (bullish) or by igniting inflation and thereby elevating discount rates (bearish)? 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 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 deficit data, augmented by actual GDP data for FY20, and returns for the S&P 500 Index (SP500) as a proxy for the U.S. stock market during FY 1930 through FY 2020 (90 years), we find that: (more…)

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