With the Dow Jones industrial average at 25,178, it just needs to run up another 18% to reach 30,000. Based on its 52-week trading range, it could easily get there. Earnings, employment, gross domestic product (GDP) and inflation, the usual engines for ongoing increases in all the major indices, show little wavering from ongoing improvements.
The Dow has a 52-week low of 20,278 and a high for the period of 26,616. The increase to the higher number is just over 30%. The index soared higher from a year ago to late January. Since then, it has suffered a correction but has moved back toward its historical high point.
Unemployment numbers are unlikely to unhinge the improvement in the Dow. The economy added 313,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate sits at 4.1%. Many economists believe that 5% is what is termed “full employment,” which means that almost everyone looking for a job has one. Arguably, as this persists, wages will rise. However, that has not happened.
Rising inflation, a critical aspect of which is employment levels, has not pressured pay levels up. The Federal Reserve has been reluctant to raise rates because of, among other things, wage data. Another aspect of inflation, energy costs, has remained low. Government tracked inflation has hovered around 1% when food and energy prices are backed out.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis, a unit of the U.S. Department of Commerce, releases GDP numbers for every quarter. The figure is revised, so the number is fluid. When the government body released its data for the final quarter of 2017, it showed GDP growth of 2.5%, after 3.2% in the third quarter. Going forward, a majority of economists believe the figure will remain above 2.5% in 2018. If employment stays high, the figure could be better, since consumer spending is the largest portion of the figure.
A significant number of America’s companies reported earnings figures above analyst expectations. According to recent information compiled by Reuters:
Of the 468 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings to date for Q4 2017, 76.1% have reported earnings above analyst expectations. This is above the long-term average of 64% and in-line with the prior four quarter average of 72%.
By any stretch of the imagination, those figures are impressive. And the strength of the overall economy should help bolster the pattern as 2018 progresses.
Catastrophes well outside those that usually lift the market could change its trajectory. Rising tensions with North Korea are an example. So is the possibility that new tariffs could trigger a bloody trade war. For the time being, these threats look unlikely. That means the advance of the Dow toward 30,000 looks more likely than not.