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Hyping the record close

Today the S&P500 closed at a record high, but that doesn’t necessarily point to smooth sailing ahead.  During the first 10 trading sessions of the New Year, the index has closed down just as many times as up.  The daily closing gains/losses were near mirror images of each other.  Today’s record high close was only two cents above the December 2013 close…hardly noteworthy.  But it’s being hyped in the media.

Bulls are making a strong case for another year of upward movement in the markets.  As earnings season begins, the analysis are forecasting a 7% increase in S&P500 earnings for Q4.  They see the overall economy continuing to grow and are predicting 2014 GDP growth of 3%.

While growth is obviously better than loss, the picture they’re painting is hardly rosy.  The Fed’s inflation target is over 2%, so that leaves forecasted 2014 real GDP growth at something less than 1%.  That’s five years into the government stimulated “recovery”…hardly a robust turnaround.

Growth is even less vigorous when one considers that to achieve this minuscule improvement, the Fed feels the need to continue injecting $75 billion per month into bond purchases and the deficit remains above $500 billion per year.  One might even think that the S&P500 is not worthy of a 19 times valuation multiple either.

Maybe that’s why this week Macy’s announced a 2,500 job cut, and the always underachieving JCPenney could only muster a 2,000 employee cut.  Perhaps these large retailers are just cutting costs ahead of more Obamacare increases.

No one knows, least of all me.  For now, I plan to sit patiently and wait.