In the movie, Mary Poppins the movie opens with the Sea Captain, who lives next door, pointing out that the winds are changing, indicating a storm is on the way.
The same could be said of the Stock Market today. Markets have been hammered this week, and it's mainly due to a change in the financial winds.
If you think back to just last month, you'll note that most commentators and many investors were pointing to the consumer as the driving force behind these markets.
We had just gone through the traditional holiday shopping season and things were pretty good. Sales, especially when you include online sales, were solid. And setting aside for the moment the struggle between brick and mortar stores and their web-based competitors, it seemed that the consumer was driving this economy.
The focus was on how many iPhones, big screen TV's and yes, even Tesla's would be sold. Solve the marketing and sales issues and all would be fine with the stock market.
But all this changed on this past Monday when markets were no longer concerned about consumer sales. You can see that in the numbers reported this week. On Monday Redbook continues to report its weekly sales figures, and they are solid. While New Home sales for January exploded, up nearly 8% over last year, and consumer confidence, what can you say, we're back to near-record highs which we haven't seen in 21 years.So from the consumer side of the economy, things are looking just fine, thank you.
Obviously, the Coronavirus, Covid-19 changed the market's outlook.
And while much of that change of outlook comes from human suffering. There is another reason for the markets to be concerned.
Perhaps we've built our entire economy on the wrong foundation. And the Covid-19 is vividly pointing that out. Perhaps going after the cheapest products shipped from unknown factories halfway round the world is not the best strategy.
Perhaps the just in time inventory procedure doesn't work all the time.
Perhaps a consumer-based economy is not the best way to produce long term wealth.
You know all of these concepts are relatively new. Having come about only within the past 40 or 50 years. Classical Economics would be appalled with what we've done to our economy. Adam Smith, David Ricardo and the others who first understood the principals of economics, believed to a man that an economy should be built on a firm foundation of production and manufacturing, with little to no debt.
Theirs was the intellectual underpinning upon this country and all of the great powers of the industrial revolution were built.
But we've changed from a nation of builders to a nation of buyers. From makers of things to customers of other countries. And it is that flaw, which this pandemic is revealing.
We can now see the risks of this “new” economy.
The good news is that the Trump Tariffs have already made this shortcoming abundantly clear. Having components shipped in from a thousand miles away makes us incredibly vulnerable. And now with the tariffs, incredibly expensive.
So American companies have already begun to move production back onshore. Ford and Intel are reportedly moving 4,000 jobs back to the US. Boeing nearly 8,000 jobs, GM almost 13,000 and Apple Computer a whopping 22,000 jobs.
That's real production coming back to our shores. One can only hope that they move as quickly as possible to mitigate the impact of this Virus.