It’s often said the stock market is not the real economy. Stocks bounce around. GDP numbers, hiring and other hard data better reflect the nation’s health.
But if the stock market isn’t the real economy, it’s real life for tens of millions of Americans who have 401(k), IRA or other retirement savings. If you’re one of those people, check your mailbox or online account for second-quarter results to get a satisfying jolt: Your balance is rising, because the economy continues to grow, and add jobs at a fast clip, 10 years into a record expansion.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index shot upward by 17% in the first half of 2019, the best result since 1997. This continues a prosperous streak for the markets since President Donald Trump was elected, vowing policies that would goose growth. From Election Day 2016 to July 2019, the Dow Jones industrial average is up about 47%.
It’s not just the wealthy who benefit. Gallup polling suggests that about 54% of Americans own stocks either directly or via mutual funds, pension accounts and other retirement kitties.
As of this month, the U.S. is in the longest economic expansion in American history, surpassing the 1990s. The growth spurt began with the June 2009 end of the Great Recession. Stocks had rebounded from devastating lows a few months earlier, delivering President Barack Obama a sensational result — a 149% jump in the Dow — over his eight years in office.
Ten years is a long time to sustain growth, yet under Trump the economy keeps going despite Trump’s ill-advised trade fights with China and Mexico. On Friday, the Labor Department said the U.S. created 224,000 new jobs in June — well above economists’ expectations. Wages grew 3.1% over the past year. One serious concern: More people paying taxes helps the government’s balance sheet, but without spending restraint from a profligate president and Congress, that alone won’t relieve a national debt that also continues to expand.
No, the stock market isn’t the economy. But it’s a source of income and retirement security for many Americans. And for those who don’t own stocks, the expanding jobs market continues to offer real hope.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE