By Mike Rastiello via Flickr
President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to lower taxes and slash regulations is creating a great deal of business optimism here in the US. Last month, the Index of Small Business Optimism soared a phenomenal 7.4 points to 105.8, its highest reading since 2004. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which conducts the survey, reported that attitudes toward capital spending and job creation in particular surprised to the upside. Research firm Evercore ISI called it a “blowout report,” and I have to agree.
In their commentary, the NFIB’s William Dunkelberg and Holly Wade expressed cautious optimism that the incoming administration could satisfactorily relax some of the regulatory burden on businesses.
“Politicians say they want to create jobs, but their regulations and laws… only increased the cost of hiring a worker, and that is not good for job creation,” they wrote.
(Consider compliance-related paperwork alone. In fiscal year 2015, Americans spent a jaw-dropping 9.78 billion—yes, billion—hours complying with federal rules and regulations, according to a recent report from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). That’s up nearly 4.00% from 2014.)
Many chief executives of large multinationals have been very receptive to Trump’s proposals, taking him at his word that he can succeed at fostering an improved business environment in the US. Ford (F) recently scrapped plans for a Mexico factory, while Fiat Chrysler announced a $1 billion investment in Michigan and Ohio, expected to create up to 2,000 new jobs. After meeting with the president-elect this week, Jack Ma, founder and CEO of Chinese ecommerce site Alibaba (BABA), said he was committed to adding 1 million US companies to his hugely popular online shopping platform. The chief executive of active wear company Under Armour (UAA) told CNBC that it would be bringing jobs back to the US, specifically Baltimore, where it’s headquartered. And on Thursday, Amazon (AMZN) unveiled plans to grow the number of its full-time, US-based jobs by 100,000—from 180,000 today to over 280,000 by 2018.
As I’ve said many times before, there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding Trump, who will be sworn into office this Friday. At the same time, businesses and investors clearly like what they’re hearing. Appearing on CNBC last week, legendary economist Robert Shiller perfectly summarized this distinction, saying that “nervousness can go along with optimism.” Although he didn’t vote for Trump, Shiller acknowledges that animal spirits are running high, adding that he sees the Trump equities rally spilling over into the housing market this year.
Joining Shiller in offering a balanced assessment of Trump is my old friend Alexander Green, whose writing skills I admire and opinions I greatly respect. In his most recent blog post, Alex makes a convincing case against Trump’s protectionism, which is “not good for the economy or the market” and “undermines American economic growth.” Although investors have moved billions into the stock market since the election, the Trump rally could easily turn into the Trump correction, Alex says, “unless he changes his tune” on international trade.
“Why does a flat-panel HDTV that cost more than $10,000 in 2003 cost less than $400 today? Globalization,” he writes. “How can you walk into a Marshalls (MSLH) store and buy a fine cashmere sweater for 35 bucks? Globalization. Why does an $8 million supercomputer from 20 years ago sit in your pocket and cost less than $200? Globalization.”
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The Small Business Optimism Index is compiled from a survey that is conducted each month by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) of its members.
The Producer Price Index (PPI) measures prices received by producers at the first commercial sale. The index measures goods at three stages of production: finished, intermediate and crude. The Purchasing Manager’s Index is an indicator of the economic health of the manufacturing sector. The PMI index is based on five major indicators: new orders, inventory levels, production, supplier deliveries and the employment environment.
Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 09/30/2016: Ford Motor Co.