Pity those poor Wall Street Wise. In line with what I've been predicting for a while, it seems that the Federal Reserve, and its chairman, Ben Bernanke, are in no real hurry to cut rates and deliver a new dose of exuberance, irrational or not.
That became even more clear with the release of yesterday's "Beige Book", which has good news and bad news.
The good news is that the economy is doing fine and expanding modestly, and the housing contagion seems mostly contained.
The bad news is that the economy is doing fine and expanding modestly, and the housing contagion seems mostly contained.
How can it be both?
Well, if you're an average Joe or Jane American, a taxpayer, a solid citizen, a hard worker, an investor for the long run, the kind of person who wants to see the U.S. economy motor along -- even if it's at a slower pace than we've seen the past few years -- the news is good. Retail sales are increasing moderately after a summer slump. Ditto for manufacturing, commercial real estate, and tourism. Credit looked fine (aside from a tightening in housing), and the sorest spot is in big purchases such as furniture and vehicles.
Of course, the good news is bad news if you're a Wall Street alpha monkey who's been betting on an early-autumn rate cut to spark another round of speculation in assets. These people need a calamity -- or at least the perception of one -- to get the Fed to open the spigots again. Any sign of strength in the economy means fewer silk suits and Porsches come Christmas. That's why you've seen so many of these folks trotted out onto cable news shows lately to moan about the horrible state of things. The mass media (motto: "If it bleeds, it leads.") have been happy to propagate the doomsday story, despite the ample evidence to the contrary.
The problem is, in a decent economy/neutral rate environment, Bear Stearns
The rest of us can be thankful that the sky hasn't really fallen and doesn't appear ready to land on our heads, despite what histrionic Wall Street enablers like Jim Cramer want you to believe. As I've discussed previously, this will make stock picking a bit more challenging, as the rate-cut "put" is disappearing fast. A slower economy will put a hit on weaker companies, pinching earnings, and causing some major shareholder pain. But choosing the right stocks at the right time is a challenge we feel up to here. It's a good time to be a Fool.
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At the time of publication, Seth Jayson, a top-10 CAPS player, had no shares of any company mentioned here. See his latest CAPS blog commentary here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.