The stock market has been on quite a run for the past five years or so. Granted, most of this was a rebound from the precipitous drop we experienced during the financial crisis and recession. However, a run this long and this far is hard to ignore. So many times in the past five years we have seen periods of weakness that looked like either corrections or the end of the run, only for stocks to bounce back and hit new highs. Why have stocks been so resilient?
There are a multitude of theories, but the bottom line is that stocks would not be doing well if companies were not doing well. It is that simple. Of course, that begs the next question, why have earnings been so strong when the economy has been in such a slow and painful recovery? One explanation delves into the theory that technology has made companies more efficient. Of course, that also means companies need to hire fewer employees to run their businesses and this is possibly one reason the labor markets have not recovered. Certainly, the growth of online shopping is one of the factors that come into play in this regard.
The real question is, what does the strong stock market say about the economy? Here is where there seems to be a disconnect. Is the stock market saying — don’t worry, the recovery is coming; Or is the stock market saying — we don’t care how slow the economy is, as long as we are producing results? If the markets could talk, we could find out an answer. Meanwhile, we will speculate that both answers are in play. If the markets felt that darker days were ahead of us, strong earnings today would not matter as much.