Soft economy is not all about the weather

Things started going south in November—before the elements did, writes Morningstar's Bob Johnson.

Robert Johnson, CFA 19 February, 2014 | 3:03AM

U.S. equity markets had a good week, with the S&P 500 moving up 2.4% while the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond yield moved up from 2.68% to 2.74% as the market shrugged off another set of poor economic indicators.

Retail sales in January were down 0.4%, and the previous two months were revised sharply downward. Industrial production fell 0.8%, and unemployment claims moved up a little. On the positive side of the ledger, single-week shopping center growth popped above 2% again after last week's disaster. New U.S. Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen's testimony on Capitol Hill also seemed to reassure markets (more of the same policies, tapering to continue absent an economic train wreck). Finally, a quick agreement on the lifting of the debt ceiling until 2015 seemed to calm markets considerably.

European GDP growth looked a little better, with growth of about 1.1% annualized for the fourth quarter. My colleague in the fixed-income department, David Sekera, offered that the European growth was good enough to keep the credit situation from getting worse, but not enough to pull them out of the ditch, either.

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Robert Johnson, CFA

Robert Johnson, CFA  Robert Johnson, CFA, is director of economic analysis for Morningstar.

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