It’s been a frustrating year for the stock market. Indeed, the virtual mountain of data that documents the exceptional strength of the U.S. economy, labor market and corporate earnings, among others, has mattered little. Last year’s 25.1 percent gain in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) seems like ancient history.
After a brief January surge, stock prices crashed amid concerns over Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, trade disputes and a weakening global economy. But during July-September, the stock market regained some momentum. On October 3, the DJIA reached an all-time-high of 26,828 — up 8.5 percent for the year.
Unfortunately, since that record October high, stock prices have plummeted. As of Wednesday, the DJIA has since fallen 3,504 points while losing more than 13 percent of its value.
Though the U.S. economy remains one of the few shining stars on the global economic stage, the fallout from a weakening global economy has raised red flags for future U.S. economic growth. In today’s world of globalized trade, economic weakness tends to reverberate around the globe. And when that economic weakness is coming from America’s largest trading partners — such as China, the European Union and Canada — the impact to the U.S. economy can be significant.
Behind the U.S., China is the world’s second-largest economy. It is also America’s largest trading partner. In 2017, China accounted for 16.4 percent of America’s total economic trade. But China’s economy is now struggling.
China’s economic growth rate this year is expected to be 6.5 percent — its slowest pace since 1990. Next year, its economic growth is projected at just 6 percent. So far this year, China’s mounting economic concerns have driven its national stock market, the Shanghai Composite Index, down by 23 percent.
China’s latest economic data, just released by the National Bureau of Statistics of China, amplifies these concerns. Consumer retail sales increased at its lowest monthly rate since June 2003. Industrial production — the value of output produced by manufacturers, mines and utilities — grew at its slowest pace since January 2016. Fixed asset investment — the investment in construction, machinery, equipment and real estate — is still languishing at dismal growth rates not seen since the mid-1990s.
The European Union, which accounts for 22.1 percent of all global economic growth, is also in decline. The EU has seen its economic growth rate decline from 2.7 percent in 2017 to just 1.9 percent in 2018. Next year, its economic growth rate is expected to be just 1.7 percent.
Canada, America’s No. 2 overall trading partner and the largest importer of U.S. goods, is projecting its economic growth rate to decline from 3 percent last year to 2.1 percent in 2018. In 2019, economic growth in the Great White North is projected at 2 percent.
For America, the risk of a global economic contagion is the extent it will impact our economy. So far this year, the strength and sheer size of the U.S. economy has helped weather much of this storm. But when nearly 44 percent of all sales for corporations in the S&P 500 originate from foreign countries, it’s understandable why the financial markets are concerned.
With the recent volatility in the markets, investors were hoping for their annual Santa Claus rally — an industry reference that stock markets typically rise between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Unfortunately, this year, the markets seem to be more Grinch than Santa.
But to you, the readers, I wish you all a very joyous and Merry Christmas!