In February of 2013, the Dow Jones Industrial Average went up 1.4%, the Nasdaq increased 5%, and the S&P 500 rose 1.1%.
In evaluating the prospects for the U.S. economy in early 2013, there are several offsetting factors which, in my opinion, make growth potentially subdued. Positive trends which I believe could contribute to a quicker rate of expansion include the continuing improvement in oil and gas production, the slowly mending U.S. housing industry, and an accelerating merger and acquisition environment.
Each of these developments is important because they all have large secondary impacts on other industries, potentially creating a multiplier effect across a broad range of segments in the economy.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the expiration of the Bush payroll tax cuts, the reduction of spending in government related defense and health care programs due to sequestration, and the upcoming implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), are all forces which could impede economic recovery.
Interestingly, a slowing down in the rate of government spending is probably the first step to trying to control the expense side of the federal government. The current administration has repeatedly stated it favors a “strong dollar policy.” Rhetoric is nice, but running consistent deficits of over $1 trillion dollars per year help create the conditions for a weak currency.
If one couples the 'Quantitative Easing' policies of the Federal Reserve with the large budget deficits, record low treasury yields mean a strong dollar is nowhere to be found. Indeed, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke testified this week about the benefits of maintaining the current policy for the foreseeable future.
Fortunately for the United States, currency weakness is the prevailing standard across the globe. In fact, fiscal austerity is being questioned because of the harsh economic and political consequences in the U.K, Japan, and across Europe.