The Bottom Line
- June data shows consumer confidence and small business optimism remain solid—although both measures have softened a bit following post-election surges.
- The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence index came in at 118.9, off the recent peak of 124.9 in March, but well above the 20-year average of 92.9.
- The NFIB’s Small Business Optimism survey was 103.6, below the January high of 105.9, but also above the 20-year average of 96.9.
- These relatively high readings help explain why stocks are at record levels.
- Yet elevated confidence levels are sometimes a warning sign.
- History shows that when sentiment is high while economic fundamentals are weakening, a downturn could be ahead.
- However, many indicators appear solid now. Unemployment is low (4.4%), inflation is benign (1.6%) and manufacturing activity is expanding (the June ISM Manufacturing PMI was a solid 57.8).
- That, coupled with improving global growth, continued strength in corporate earnings and overall financial conditions that remain loose for this stage of the business cycle, arguably offers an optimistic backdrop for the equity markets.
- Of course, that doesn’t preclude a sudden change in the weather. And with stock valuations generally elevated careful analysis is paramount to select attractively priced investments—a potential advantage for strategies managed by experienced stock-pickers.
- For more about the trends that signal continued upside for stocks, read the latest update from ClearBridge Investment Strategist Jeff Schulze.
Source for all data is Bloomberg.