NEW YORK (
) -- After four consecutive weeks of gains for the U.S. equity markets, Monday reminded investors that even if the recession has been declared officially dead, all is not exactly right with the markets. It's the same old culprits too, when it comes to swiftly replacing a rally mentality with a jittery investor finger on the panic, or at least profit-taking, button.
Fears about the lingering unemployment in the U.S. continue to make for uneasy investors. President Obama certainly doesn't deny that this is an issue, saying on national television on Monday that the United States must accelerate job growth. President Obama stressed that the U.S. is not experiencing a "jobless recovery" but the fact that Obama's spin-meisters even felt it necessary to have the President say these words tells us that investors and the still out-of-work on Main Street aren't so sure about the road to recovery.
"We've seen eight months in a row of private-sector job growth. We're actually seeing more job growth so far in this recovery than we did in the last recovery that we had back in 2001," Obama said during his Monday interview on
, echoing comments about private job growth made by Obama's guru David Axelrod over the weekend on the Sunday morning beltway gabfests.
"The problem is we just lost so many jobs because of the crisis that we've got a much bigger hole to fill, and that means we're going to have to accelerate job growth and we've got to do everything we can to focus on that," President Obama said.
Meanwhile, the economic motor revs up and then just as quickly stalls out. And it's not just the employment situation in the U.S., but the European Union balance sheet that continues to fuel investor fears that the global recovery isn't a sure thing yet. The market sentiment about the European economy changes so quickly a market cynic might think that some short-term trading monoliths are writing the headlines day to day: one day European debt woes are not as bad as they seem, and the next day the headlines scream that the European banking stresses are worse than feared, or less dire than predicted; it just depends on the day and the trade that the short-term monoliths need to make.
Of course, the recession officially ended in June 2009, it was announced recently by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The death certificate for the recession was quickly questioned, with President Obama noting that it doesn't feel like the recession is gone for many on Main Street, and
saying that "common sense" analysis indicates that the country is not out of the recession yet.
Remember too, that before the big September rally investors were hiding their money under the mattress when the obscure technical indicator known as the Hindenburg Omen predicted a market crash.
It's all enough to remind one that 2010 has been a tough year for the long view, and investors have been best rewarded with getting in and getting out at the right time, booking short-term profits without placing a bet on the speed and strength of the global recovery. That said, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 3.5% year-to-date, and the S&P 500 Index up 2.5% after the month-long September rally.
So the situation is far from dismal for equities, but is it stable, or is a double-dip recession still a likely scenario?
Buffett doesn't trust NBER, and no one seems to trust Europe, and President Obama can't convince Americans that everything is A-OK with the economy.
Indeed, when NBER announced the recession officially ended in June 2009, it raised the Main Street question echoed by the words of "common sense" Warren Buffett,
Do you think the recession ended for good with the NBER announcement?
It's clear from a survey of
readers that NBER and President Obama have their work cut out for them in convincing investors that recovery is a sure thing. Approximately 72% of survey takers don't think the recession is a dead issue, even if NBER says it is dead. Only 28% of survey respondents trusted the NBER recession call as a measure of the economic scenario in which the country finds itself.
There isn't just a mental disconnect on a day-to-day basis, and week-to-week, over issues like the strength of the European economy. The mental disconnect between Warren Buffett and NBER over the recession shows how far the academic, elite economists can be from the mood on Wall Street, too. The fact that in August, the technical trading community's Hindenburg Omen became the trigger to sell for people who had never even heard of the Hindenburg Omen before, yet was followed by a month-long market rally, shows another level of mental disconnect between those playing in the markets.
Indeed, we also asked readers about their views of the Hindenburg Omen and NBER specifically. There were those who said they still trust the doomed German airship and it was still time to sell (35%). There were those who think the NBER recession call is the signal that the markets are only headed up from here and it's time to buy (21%). Yet, a larger percentage of survey takers expressed the view that NBER's staff may as well be put on a Hindenburg flight and both sent up, up and away for all the good they offer investors. Approximately 44% of survey takers described both the Hindenburg Omen and NBER as "meaningless pseudo-science."
In fact, the only consistent finding in recent polls conducted by
about the investor view of the economy is that when all else fails, trust Warren Buffett.
Last week, Buffett cautioned investors that there is no reason to fear a double-dip recession because the economy is still mired in the original recession. As for job growth, Buffett said Berkshire Hathaway is hiring again, but it's in fits and starts and the preeminent U.S. company is starting with the same "hole to fill" alluded to by President Obama.
One thing seems clear amid the murkiness that typifies investor sentiment day to day. While President Obama and Warren Buffett are filling holes for the economy at a macro level, many on Main Street feel like they are still in the act of climbing out of one without helping hands.
--Written by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.
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