The stock market is one place for good news in a bad-news world
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After a host of recent ugly headlines, many Americans seem to be wondering if the political turmoil of the last year or so is finally starting to hit the bottom line of the U.S. economy. The latest bombshell: whether National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn would remain as one of the few adults in the West Wing, or whether the Goldman Sachs alum will resign and plunge the administration into further chaos.

It’s tempting to think that if one of Wall Street’s own quits, that it will be lights out for the stock market as investors come to grips with just how toxic President Trump really is. But whether Cohn stays or goes doesn’t matter much. Businesses, investors and Wall Street are doing just fine, and will continue to do so in 2017 no matter what.

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Yes, the last week or so has deeply disturbed me. If you’re a resident of planet Earth, how could you not be disturbed? From rumors that North Korea was prepping a missile attack on Guam, to Trump’s naive notion that monuments to the defenders of slavery are simply “beautiful” public works, to the horrific events in Barcelona on Thursday… I’ll just stop there, or else I’ll have to pour myself a drink.

 

But of all the fears and worries that keep me awake at night, the stock market simply isn’t one of them. The ineptitude of our president cannot stop the resilience of America’s capital markets, and terrorism or racism cannot stand in the way of persistent global economic growth. And that’s saying something about our state of affairs.

Let’s recap the stock market’s performance. The Dow Jones Industrial Average recently topped 22,000, and while the major index has rolled back a bit in the last few weeks it is still up more than 10 percent since January. You may think that would change as corporate America abandoned Trump this week and amid rumblings about how long-awaited tax reform legislation is sure to be a nearly impossible feat.

But you’re probably just numb from the pace of bad news. After all, corporate America has been shunning the president for a while. Remember back in June when Tesla’s wunderkind chief executive Elon Musk and Disney’s longtime chairman Robert Iger and both quit Trump’s business councils in response to the White House’s intransigence on climate change? And tax reform has been cooked for months, as ObamaCare has been dying a slow death and Republican lawmakers in both the House and Senate continue to prove they are ineffectual at governing even with a numerical majority.

Perhaps most disturbing of all, do you really need to look deep into the past to find evidence of racism and hate? Do you not have an internet connection? Have you never seen the Philando Castile video? Did you forget about Nice roughly a year ago?

Forgive me for a moment, because now I really need that drink… Okay. Now, take a deep breath and remember this. As Warren Buffett said just a few short years ago in his annual letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, “For 240 years, it’s been a terrible mistake to bet against America. And now is no time to start.”

Not only is the stock market up this year in the short term, but it is a good 60 percent or so above the prior pre-crisis peak of the stock market in 2007. It has also more than tripled since its Great Recession lows. Not only have 1 million jobs been created so far this year, but more than 11 million jobs were created under the previous president (thanks, Obama).

Because of that long-term trend, the headline unemployment rate is the lowest since 2001 at just 4.3 percent, down from a double-digit rate during the depths of the financial crisis. Consumer confidence is the highest in 17 years. And as of the latest stock filings, corporate profits in the second-quarter of 2017 just hit a new all-time high. Doesn’t seem so bleak if you can just tune out the talking heads on cable TV, does it?

This is not to say we don’t have problems. After all, even with all this growth and wealth for the U.S. economy writ large, there are a great many people left out of the success. But if you can say anything about the economy and the stock market, it’s that they tend to function with the cold logic of numbers above all else. And despite the very justifiable worries and fears that are out there, investors and the stock market are objectively doing quite well right now — and should continue on that path for the foreseeable future.

Honestly, I am happier to be an investor now than in any other time in my life. This is in part because of my optimism for the economy and the stock market, but also because it allows me to read 10-Ks and economic data for most of the day. They may be a bit dry, but the reports tend to be mostly good news. And that is in very short supply outside of finance these days.

Jeff Reeves is a stock analyst and executive editor of InvestorPlace.com. His commentary has appeared on CNBC, Fox Business, USA Today and MarketWatch.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.