Look at the facts, ignore the rhetoric

Friday, March 22, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 12

In human psychology, fear seems more legitimate than hope. Claims of “impending doom,” and “bursting bubbles” elicit fast emotional responses that seem impervious to critique. So many programs, speeches and advertisements prey on this phenomenon today.

The sequester babble couldn’t have been more emblematic. Politicians paraded out a long list of miserable outcomes without substantiation. In reality, the sequester was an economic rounding error, yet it dominated discussion and empowered pessimists.

Why am I harping? I want you to scrutinize the cacophony of negativism. Go to the source material or prioritize the analysis of those who do. Defer to the data first and the interpretation second. Not the other way around! Allow me to demonstrate … .

The data

The Manufacturing Economy: According to the ISM manufacturing index recently released, the manufacturing sector continued to expand in February. The JP Morgan Global Manufacturing Index has been greater than 50 for the last three months, indicating global expansion.

The Service Economy: 85 percent of the US workforce works in the service economy. According to the ISM Non-Manufacturing Index, the US service sector expanded for the 39th consecutive month. The JP Morgan Global Non-Manufacturing Index has been greater than 50 for the last 43 months, indicating global expansion.

The Job Market: Over the last 12 months, the US economy has created 2 million new jobs. The unemployment rate has fallen from 8.3 percent to 7.7 percent, a four-year low. There were 246,000 private sector jobs added in the economy in February, roughly 100,000 more than expected.

The State of the Consumer: Since the low in 2009, personal incomes have increased by $1.7 trillion, or 14 percent, and stand 6 percent higher than their pre-recession peak. Household net worth in the US has advanced nearly 30 percent from the post-crisis low and stands today a mere 2 percent away from an all-time high.

The State of the Corporation: Prior to the crisis, corporate profits topped out at $1.4 trillion, 21 percent lower than they are today. Standard & Poor’s currently estimates year-end 2014 profits at $125 across the S&P 500, 26 percent above where they finished 2012.

Governmental Policy: The U.S. Federal Reserve has committed to stimulating the economy by purchasing $85 billion in long-term assets monthly until unemployment reaches 6.5 percent. Additionally, the U.S. government continues to run historic deficits. By definition, deficits are stimulus.

The opinion

The Middle East might erupt. Oil prices might skyrocket. The Chinese economic miracle might end. The euro currency might collapse. North Korea might fire a nuke. Computer trading might cause a flash crash.

Currency wars might become military wars. The U.S. government might default on its debt payments. The list of potential economic and market cancers or “tail events” is lengthy. The future might be awful. But today, here in the now, the data support rising profits, rising sentiment, rising markets, falling unemployment, shrinking deficits and higher global GDP.

The facts favor the forward-looking optimists. The rhetoric favors the backward-looking pessimists.

David Waddell, who is regularly featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Forbes, as well as on Fox Business News and CNBC, is president and CEO of Waddell & Associates, with offices in Nashville and Memphis.