The first half of January 2016 has been the worst New Year’s opening for the US stock markets in history. Yet nothing much has changed economically since the end of last year. So why is the Dow Jones down 8.24%, the S&P 500 down 8.00% and the Nasdaq down 10.36% in just the first two weeks or so of the New Year? The answer is not yet clear.
According to the Stock Trader’s Almanac, if US stocks move lower in January, that means a down year for equities 75% of the time. While January is not over yet, it’s hard to imagine that stocks could close up for the month. So are we looking at the first down year for US stocks since 2008? Time will tell, but it sure looks that way.
Questions abound. Did the Fed make a huge mistake by raising short-term rates by a mere 0.25% in December? Did news that China’s economy grew at only around 6% last year and may be slowing more this year upset the global apple cart? Are plunging oil prices really a bad thing? Is a new global recession just around the corner? Should we be preparing for a new recession here in the US this year?
These are the questions everyone is asking in the wake of the plunging stock market prices we have seen from the beginning of 2016. It is true that the current economic recovery which began in 2009 is the weakest in more than a half century, but this is nothing new. Rather than negative growth, GDP has expanded only by about 2% since Obama took office.
Yet the Fed’s latest estimate of 4Q GDP growth has now fallen from 2.0% on December 17 to only 0.6% in the latest GDPNow estimate in the second week of January. This economy is losing momentum fast. The risks of a recession this year are quickly increasing. This may help explain why equities are tanking so far this year.
There’s so much to talk about today, I’m not sure where to start. Let’s begin with the case for a recession this year, both globally and here at home.
We’ll end on a positive note from Mark Hulbert, editor of the Hulbert Financial Digest, who suggests that this latest downward market correction may be over before too long. Let’s get started.