Mixed. It's all so mixed it's hard to know what to say or where to begin.
Mixed, of course, is better than soft. There are pockets of real softness among the mixed, but if you are a policy maker, or, more specifically, if you are on the Federal Reserve board, you must be astonished at how the after effects of that December rate hike keep leaching through the system.
Take housing: It's completely mixed. There are some areas where prices continue to increase nicely -- and then there are others, like the Bay Area and New York City -- where prices have clearly peaked.
But then again, perhaps it is the weather and rate declines will soon accelerate growth. Think of the most recent report: Toll Brothers (TOL) . You can see the weather and the Fed's rate increase playing havoc as February orders were down 22%,, March down 19% but then April was up 11%. Could that be lower rates? Could it 50% the weather? Incentives?
Does April stand out as a strong month, or is it that the other two months were weak and everything's been held back by the February weather and concerns about the economy? How can that be, though, given that April employment was so strong? It all makes no sense. Nor did the incredible decline in lumber that Home Depot (HD) talked about. How the heck did that happen?
Nor do autos? The only auto numbers that stand out positively to me are the F series trucks. I just don't see that much to write home about when it comes to the auto group and where I see building in Mexico to ship up here.
I wouldn't want to be levered to that world in the worst way. It's a total no-growth industry.
Brick and mortal retail took a gigantic step back this quarter, with the large department stores all showing no growth or even declines while there has been an acceleration in store closings. Meanwhile, only Target (TGT) and Walmart (WMT) have succeeded in growing their omni-channel approach in any serious way.
Oil and gas? The rig count peaked months ago and continues to go down. That had been the most robust portion of the economy.
I don't know a single bank that is experiencing real growth when it comes to lending. The main factor is not necessarily a lack of demand though. It is a lack of supply, workers that is. You can't grow without a workforce and in many parts of the country it is too expensive to hire to expand. At the same time, though, the demand is there, so if you can digitize and grow -- like many of the restaurant franchises seem to be able to do -- it can work. Without digitizing, you probably can't up.
The biggest dearth of supply? The amount of money out there to fund new businesses in the stock market. After five straight weeks of losses by the Dow Jones averages, you can feel the fatigue. I think the stock market has been tapped out by the Lyft (LYFT) , Uber (UBER) , Pinterest (PINS) and Luckin Coffee (LK) deals. Sure Zoom Technologies (ZOOM) and Beyond Meat (BYND) are working, but those are actually the opposite of what you want to work. I think that Zoom has a terrific franchise and it is great that the company is worth almost $20 billion. Same with Beyond Meat at $5 billion.
But both have powerful competitors in Cisco Systems (CSCO) and Impossible Foods, respectively, which are going to force them, ultimately, I believe, to slash margins.
I think the stock market, at last, is out of money to fuel more expansion in this economy.
I think we are in a pause, a pause that must refresh or we have to expect a rate cut sometime soon. So, it is the opposite of what I keep hearing people say. But what evidence do they have of anything doing really well? I can't find any.