Wall Street’s Recovery Still Unconfirmed

We are in the midst of earnings season and beyond the handful of companies with economic moats, there is little evidence to support Wall Street’s view that economic recovery is underway.

The dichotomy between the financial world and the real world was one of the main culprits which led to the crisis of 2008. Unfortunately, the policy responses of the Fed and the Bush/Obama administrations have done little to bridge the gulf between Wall Street and Main Street. In fact, they may have exacerbated the situation with bailouts and easy money policy.

In any case, an economic recovery eventually has to bolster operations of companies that make stuff and provide services beyond taking free money from the Fed’s teat. Anecdotal evidence suggests that companies on the ground are not seeing signs of real recovery in the US.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (WSJ) carried an article on freight haulers and the troubles they are still experiencing. Any robust recovery should see more goods being shipped for production and consumption but at best, companies are reporting stabilization at low levels.

BHP Billiton reported record output but according to the Journal, “the company said there is little evidence of sustainable demand from developed economies.” Note that developed economies encompasses countries outside the US.

Finally, many market watchers are keeping tabs on staffing firms, on the theory that employers will turn to temps before hiring new workers. So any recovery in the economy and jobs should be foretold by reports from companies like Manpower or Monster Worldwide. Unfortunately, today’s article in the WSJ states that revenues at these types of companies are still falling, with little sign of optimism.

How much real recovery has the market priced into stocks? It is impossible to know but at some point, investors will demand revenue growth to justify current valuations. It remains to be seen if they will get that growth but so far, no dice.

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