By Carlos Guillen
Stocks are making a modest move to the upside as rather encouraging economic data points from the U.K. and China are giving investors some confidence that growth in equities is not done.
The U.K. economy was able to generate more positive indicators that growth is still on the way, following on last week's unexpectedly strong U.K. services PMI data. February industrial production rose 1.0 percent month-on-month, while manufacturing picked up 0.8 percent from January. The results were higher than analysts expected and much better than that reached in January, when both measures contracted markedly. Given that the two combined make up a little more than one-fifth of the U.K. economy these are critical measures of growth in the region.
Over in China, the continuing stronger than expected growth in exports is giving investors more confidence that economic growth will not decline as many have been predicting. In fact, growth in exports exceeded forecasts by at least 7.5 percentage points in December, January, and February, the first time that's happened in three straight months in the eight years. Moreover, the nation's CPI demonstrated that the rate of inflation declined to 2.1 percent year-over-year in March from 3.2 percent in February. This is serving to alleviate the worries that the government will tighten monetary policy to slow growth and attenuate inflation. So all indications are growth in China will still continue at a healthy pace.
At the moment the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up over 70 points, which is quite remarkable after everyone though Friday's jobs report would mark the beginning of the correction everyone has been whispering about. Oh! ... and the Dow just reached a new all time intraday high.
Small Business (Lack of) Optimism
By David Urani
The NFIB's small business optimism index has been quite the disappointment ever since November, and that didn't let up in March. The index fell to 89.5 from 90.8. Small businesses' outlook continues to be in the dumps at a reading of -28 which is even worse than in early 2009 after the financial crash when outlooks bottomed out at -22.
Given new taxes, a lack of a government budget and other factors, businesses are hardly willing to risk capital. In fact, a record high number (more than 60%) of business owners claim no interest in getting a loan. Yet, they also note that credit is available. And that resistance to investment translates over to the job market, as the "hiring plans" index subcomponent turned up a goose egg.
In the meantime, taxes and government red tape remain the top two problems reported at 23% and 21%, respectively.