This past week we received the final 4th Quarter GDP number, which came in at 0.39%. The total 4th Quarter growth was terrible, plain and simple. Based on the performance in the equity markets that we have seen thus far in the 1st Quarter of 2013 investors would expect strong GDP growth. However, the only thing spurring stock market growth is the constant humming of Ben Bernanke’s printing press.
The real economy and the stock market are no longer strongly correlated. Essentially, they are meaningless. How do you evaluate risk when Treasury linked interest rates are artificially being held down by the Federal Reserve? How do you evaluate earnings growth estimates when most government based statistics are manipulated or “smoothed” to perfection?
My final argument to anyone who is a true believer that the stock market is representative of the economy is a very simple premise. If the stock market is the economy, how does the stock market evaluate small business earnings growth when most small businesses are not publicly traded? It is a simple question, but I have yet to find a sell side analyst that can work around it with facts.
To back up this information, here is a chart courtesy of www.zerohedge.com that demonstrates the S&P 500’s price action compared to economic data and overall macro risk.
The chart above clearly depicts the divergence between the macroeconomic data and the performance of the S&P 500 Index. Yet the sell side continues to scream that stocks are cheap, earnings are going to ramp up later this year on insane S&P 500 earnings growth expectations, and the consumer is going to remain strong even though payroll taxes have increased and the “wealthy” are paying more in taxes.