Most broad market indexes were just about flat for the first quarter of 2015. What’s behind the ho-hum performance of the broad market?
The Overall Market
Markets across the world were volatile over the last 3 months. Many (including our own market) climbed and dropped 5% this quarter alone and that’s a wild ride. Some international markets did better in local currency but because of the strong dollar, most of them turned in a negative return anyway (in dollar terms).
The mighty dollar is also making it harder for American companies to compete and show profits overseas and that’s one reason why our market stalled this quarter.
But the American market faces other headwinds as well. Jobs rose by only 189,000 in March and that’s the lowest employment increase over the last 14 months. Exports dropped for the third month in a row to 47.5. New orders declined almost 1 point to 51.8 and jobs shed 1.4 points to 50. Keep in mind that any reading below 50 indicates contraction so the direction of these indicators is worrisome to economists.
What’s behind this rough patch?
Some pundits claim that the economic slowdown can be explained by the unseasonable cold we endured last winter. Indeed the average work-week fell in winter and 180,000 people said they couldn’t get to work specifically because of the weather. Typically that number runs 40,000 lower.
(Many of the people who fault the weather for the weaker economy expect things to perk up as the warmer temperatures allow consumers and workers more opportunity to work and spend.)