Economic Outlook: Health makes a comeback

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International   |   Feb. 13, 2012 at 9:55 AM
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Investors will not have the distraction of financial reports to look forward to this week. They will have to look at the spot news headlines instead.

There are a few reports due this week, including U.S. retail sales figures and industrial production figures for Europe. The U.S. consumer price index report is due on Friday.

That leaves investments based on product news, mergers and acquisitions and the financial upheaval in Europe that is a bottomless pit of anxiety-provoking headlines.

Are we running out of financial disasters?

The New York Times reported Monday that the quick-thinking European Central Bank -- and quick is not often put in the same sentence as the word Europe these days -- is to be credited for stepping in to buy bonds from Italy, Spain and Greece in recent months to keep their borrowing costs from going through the roof.

But now, the worry is that the easy money will create a bubble some time in the future, "several years from now," the Times said.

Frankly, it has been a while since those who invest in the stock market have paid attention to normal business news. Should corporation X hire Chief Executive Officer Mr. Smith, investors should feel the weight of the world is balanced on whether Mr. Smith is a worthy executive. Like looking for a winning horse down at the track, investors should be wondering if the product is any good or the executives are knuckleheads. They should not have to be worried about who wins an election in Portugal.

Point of fact, however, investors are beginning to do just that.

When investors are thinking about how long Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke can keep his job based on the fortunes of one particular presidential candidate then this is the definition of a market being bullied by outside forces. If Kraft Food, however, decides to spit into two companies, or if Chrysler decides to make a surprise return to the Dodge Dart, then investors are judging their decisions on the merits of the company. It's a little more organic that way.

Interesting note about Ford Motor Co. last week -- replacing two highly respected executives in a manner Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally described as smooth.

"Don't you love an orderly succession plan at Ford Motor Co?" Mulally asked in an interview.

Come to think of it, yes! Mulally might as well have said, "Let the investor think about cars and consumers, not currency rates and chaos."

The return to health in the stock market can be measured by how much investors actually make decisions based on articles in the business section of the newspaper, not by headlines on the front page.

In international markets Monday, the Nikkei 225 index in Japan gained 0.58 percent and the Shanghai composite index in China was flat, off 0.01 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong rose 0.5 percent and the Sensex in India added 0.14 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia gained 0.94 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain rose 0.97 percent while the DAX 30 in Germany added 0.71 percent. The CAC 40 in France gained 0.31 percent and the Stoxx Europe 600 gained 0.76 percent.

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