Putting the Bull in “Bull Market”

Here are four stories currently on the front page at CNN Money:

Dow, S&P close at new highs on health care rally

Strength in the health care sector gave stocks a shot in the arm Tuesday, pushing the Dow and S&P 500 to new record highs.

All three major indexes closed at least 0.5% higher. The Dow Jones industrial average hit two new records: an intraday high of about 14,684, and a record close at 14,662.

The S&P 500 closed at a record high of 1,570.

The Dow and S&P have hit several new records during a solid 2013. Even with a slight retreat Monday, all three indexes are still up between about 8% and 12% for the year.

Investors still bullish on stocks

U.S. stocks have been on a tear in 2013 and individual investors are still bullish, according to a new survey released Wednesday.

A majority of 1,100 investors surveyed by Fidelity said they expect the S&P 500 to end the year with gains.
Only 12% expect the benchmark index to end lower, and less than a third expect it to finish the year flat.

So far this year, all three major U.S. indexes have already logged double-digit percentage gains. And it’s only April.

ADP: Private sector job growth slowed in March

The pace of hiring by private employers slowed last month. Only 158,000 jobs were added, according to a report issued Wednesday by payroll-processing firm ADP.

This missed the consensus forecast from Briefing.com of 197,000 jobs, and was a sharp drop from February’s job growth, which was revised upwards to 237,000 jobs added.

Stocks: Jobs data rattles investors

U.S. stocks were little changed early Wednesday, following a weaker-than-forecast report about private sector job growth.

The Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500, which both finished at record highs a day earlier, slipped 0.1%. The Nasdaq was flat.

Payroll processing firm ADP reported Wednesday that the U.S private sector added 158,000 jobs in March.

(Note that this last story was posted at 9:56 AM, 26 minutes after the market opened.)

Here’s a story on NBCNews.com that I don’t see an analogue for on CNN Money:

Stock market bull is feeding on corporate profits

In the last 10 months, stocks have risen nearly 25 percent, as measured by the S&P 500 index. Since August, 2010, the broader Wilshire 5000 index has powered ahead by 50 percent — a rally that’s created more than $6 trillion in wealth for U.S. households, corporations, pension funds and other institutional investors.

Only that last article — and near the bottom of it — connects the path between the rising stock market, rising profits, and sluggish job growth. Only that last article has bothered to look at the relationship between management and labor and a coin in which one side is a Krugerrand and the other is an IOU. Only that last article — and even it isn’t really asking any big questions — is using the data at hand to examine the fundamental claim of this country’s economy: that when business does well, we all do well.

Business is doing very well right now. (Maybe too well, but that’s another story.) Workers, on the other hand, are not. As that last article states, almost with an audible shrug:

One big source is workers’ wages — which have been falling, after adjusting for inflation. As business improves, more of that cash is heading straight to the corporate bottom line.

It’s not hard to see why. With unemployment still at 7.7 percent, few workers have leverage to demand a raise. Many companies have also been able to meet increased demand by asking their existing workers to put in more hours and check their email on weekends. Globalization continues to offer opportunities to outsource work to low-wage, overseas markets.

However, the author then goes on to say:

As the job market improves, and companies continue adding more full-time workers, that added profit may begin to slow.

Click here and then read that sentence again. That’s a guy not reading his own writing.

There is no evidence that the job market will improve. None. There’s no reason for it to. Wal-Mart, currently around its all-time stock high, doesn’t have enough employees to get stock on the shelves. Molina Healthcare, whose stock is currently about where it’s hovered for a while, is one of many companies now looking to bring in cheap foreign labor to replace fired local workers. These are not companies struggling to make ends meet, they’re companies who learned a lesson from the recession: that they can do fine without hiring people.

I’ve said before and will continue to say it: High unemployment is not a problem for corporate America, it’s a solution. With labor completely devalued, companies are free to pay what they want and ask in return for whatever they want from people desperate to get a job, any job. They don’t have to raise wages, don’t have to offer benefits, don’t have to hire anyone, and what do they get in return? A bigger bottom line and increased investment. No matter if you’re a store that doesn’t have enough workers to actually put stock on the shelves for people to buy, in the short term those workers you don’t have are making you money. It’s not like employee-starved Wal-Mart isn’t opening any new stores (remember, they bring JOBS to the area, argue people who have nothing but contempt for cashiers at Wal-Mart.)

CNN Money believes that investors are “rattled” by the poor jobs market even as they report record highs and a seemingly endless bull party on Wall Street. This is a definition of “rattled” which doesn’t seem to include the idea that companies who don’t hire people can’t make money. And when the only moral obligation of a company is to make money and make investors happy, why do any hiring that might jeopardize that? Why not instead just race to the bottom and see who can get the most out of workers while paying them the least?

If there was ever a time in which trickle-down Reaganomics was proven to be an obvious lie, this would be it. But instead we report on these things as all separate (and contradictory) stories, not bothering to step back and look at the big picture that’s being revealed.

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