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Bad News is Good News?

Bad News is Good News?

June 03, 2024

Remember that global pandemic back in 2020 called COVID-19 that killed over 350,000 people in the U.S.? That same year, the unemployment rate reached a sky-high level of 14.9% (vs. 3.9% most recently) and the economy went into recession with GDP (Gross Domestic Product) declining by -2.2%. With the whole population locked in their homes and 9.4 million businesses closed, this debacle doesn’t sound like a real great environment for the stock market. What did the stock market actually do in 2020? The S&P 500 surged +16.3% (see chart below). Bad economic news turned out to be good news for stocks.

On the flip side, during 2022, the economy was firing on all cylinders. GDP was advancing at a reasonable +1.9% growth rate, and the unemployment rate stood at a near generationally low rate of 3.6%. What did the stock market do? It fell -19%. This time around, good economic news meant bad news for stock prices, primarily because the Federal Reserve was slamming the brakes on the economy by increasing the Federal Funds interest rate target.

These examples are powerful reminders that the direction of economic trends does not necessarily move in tandem with the direction of the stock market. Just this last month, investors experienced this same phenomenon when GDP growth figures were revised lower from +1.6% to +1.3%, and pending home sales dropped by -7.7% to the lowest level in four years during the pandemic. What did the stock market do last month? The S&P climbed +4.8% and the NASDAQ soared +6.9%. Once again, bad news has equaled good news due to higher hopes for Fed interest rate cuts.

For the year, the S&P has already appreciated a very respectable +10.6%. This stellar performance has come despite heated election concerns, persistent wars overseas, nervousness over the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy, and wild volatility in the cryptocurrency markets.

Fighting against these headwinds has been the tsunami of corporate investing dollars piling into the Artificial Intelligence (AI) spending tidal wave. I have been writing about this trend for a while (see AI World) and NVIDIA Corp (NVDA) confirmed this trend a couple weeks ago, when the AI juggernaut reported its fiscal first quarter financial results. Not only did NVIDIA more than triple its revenue above $26 billion for the three-month period compared to last year, but the company also increased its net profit by more than seven-fold to almost $15 billion for the quarter, in addition to announcing a 10-for-1 stock split (see chart below).

What these examples teach you is that it is a fruitless effort for investors to try to time the market based on economic news headlines. Yet, every day you turn on the television or comb through the avalanche of news headlines through various media outlets, there is always some Armageddon story about an impending market crash, or some other speculative, get-rich-quick scheme. As Warren Buffett states, “Investing is like dieting. Easy to understand, but difficult to execute.”

In other words, there is no simple solution to investing. It requires patience, discipline, and financial emotional wherewithal to allow the power of long-term compounding to grow your retirement nest egg. Short-term news cycle headlines shouldn’t drive portfolio decision-making, but rather your personal objectives, goals, and risk tolerance. These items are not static, and can change over time, therefore it’s important to revisit your asset allocation periodically as financial circumstances and life events change your objectives.

Of course, improving economic news can also lead to rising stock prices, just as deteriorating economic news can result in declining prices. Regardless, attempting to time the market is a fool’s errand. Rather than trying to maneuver in and out of the stocks, long-term investors should focus more intently on the four key factors that drive the direction of the stock market: corporate profits, interest rates, valuations, and investor sentiment (see also Don't be a Fool, Follow the Stool). If you understand the stock market doesn’t logically follow the daily headlines, and instead you follow the key fundament factors driving equity markets, then your investment portfolio should be blessed with plenty of good news.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (June 3, 2024). Subscribe Here to view all monthly articles.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in individual stocks , certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), including NVDA,, but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.