US economy shows positive signs despite trade war fears

Traders work on the floor at the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange.

It was a bumpy ride, but US equity markets managed to post gains in the second quarter.

The green signs for the major indexes mean that the Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 have popped in all but one of the seven quarters since Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016.

The Dow and S&P 500 jumped 0.7 percent and 2.9 percent respectively, while the Nasdaq soared 6.3 percent this quarter.

These quarterly gains seemed unlikely for much of the last three months.

Trade war worries dominated, with the Dow clocking several days of more-than-hundred-point moves in both directions on words and rumors coming out of the White House.

“We haven’t gone anywhere for months,” Jim Paulsen, chief market strategist at Leuthold Group, told The Post, referring to wild up-and-down swings in the market.

“The political issues are like a reality show,” he added, noting that traders have been especially attentive to headlines coming from the administration.

Tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods are set to go in effect on July 6, as part of a broader plan to slap levies on $50 billion in goods from China, according to an announcement by the administration on June 15. China responded with reciprocal tariffs on US goods.

Adding to the market agita is the “phenomenal earnings year” — thanks in part to tax reform — just as the economy is at full employment, Paulsen said.

While a low unemployment rate certainly sounds positive, it can be inflationary, meaning that the Federal Reserve will likely continue its path of raising rates to prevent the economy — and by extension, the stock market — from overheating.

“It reflects a standoff between phenomenal earnings against market pessimism,” Paulsen said.

Second-quarter gains come after markets dipped into negative territory in the first quarter — crushing a nine-quarter winning streak for the Dow and S&P.

Even with the quarter’s gains, the Dow is down 1.8 percent for the year, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq are up 1.7 percent and 8.8 percent, respectively.

As for what the rest of the year will bring, analysts are uncertain.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we get another air pocket,” Paulsen said.

Meanwhile, analysts at JPMorgan — in a note released this week — said that trade war worries “have taken center stage.”

“Of course, equities will not ignore a potential further escalation, but it is very difficult to handicap this risk,” they said.


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Loknath Das

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