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Is the Stock Market Clueless or Disconnected?

Breakout

It's nothing new that Wall Street's reaction to different events is sometimes baffling, but there's a growing sentiment right now that we are in the midst of a disconnect between the stock market and general economic conditions.

A recent example is the rally that came after the January jobs data, which saw the unemployment number rise and might have been dubbed an outright disaster had it not been for a series of sweeping revisions that made the trailing data look a little better. And yet, stocks rallied on the news and investors pushed the Dow about 14,000.

There are other examples, but the fact remains that Wall Street is aiming at the clouds and not bothering with the mud beneath its feet.

"There's a simple reason stocks are going up higher: it's because the Fed says so," spouts Dan North, chief economist at Euler Hermes, in the attached video. While consumer inflation remains low, he says asset inflation is soaring. "If you look at stocks, bond yields, gold has doubled since QE1 started. Silver has almost tripled." This all coming at a time when unemployment, housing and real GDP growth have been missing.

Political risk has all but disappeared lately, with stocks posting their best January advance in over a decade. Even earnings, while (predictably) coming in ahead of much-lowered analyst expectations, are facing a disconnect as sales and profit growth slumps and various valuation measures tilt towards the expensive column.

There are other examples of this disconnect, as well as some positive reasons why stocks are performing as well as they are, but the overriding rift is undebatable, especially when markets are back to pre-recession levels and economic progress is still in low gear.

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