Stock market turmoil happening during economic strength, with growth to come, Huntington executive says

Akron Beacon Journal |

--The recent stock market correction and ongoing volatility are happening in an economic upturn and do not appear to be something to lose much sleep over, Huntington Bank's chief investment officer says.

Meanwhile, the Akron area economy is performing well but also needs to generate more jobs, Huntington's John Augustine said during an economic forecast presentation Tuesday morning. He spoke before about 300 people at a breakfast meeting in the Sheraton Suites in downtown Cuyahoga Falls, touching on stocks and investments, economic indicators and more.

"The stock market is going through an adjustment phase," Augustine told the audience.

But not because of a bad economy.

"It's coming from a position of strength," Augustine said. The U.S. and global economy are doing well and should continue to do well, Augustine said.

The 30-stock Dow Jones Industrial Average had the fastest 10 percent correction in decades and has recently bounced back several percentage points, he said. The main reason for the correction is that stocks grew too far too fast in January, he said.

"Now markets are trying to find the right level," he said. "It's most interesting because it comes from a position of strength."

This is a good time for people to review their investments, to rebalance out-of-alignment portfolios and to look at upgrading their investments if need be, Augustine said.

The U.S. economy is going to benefit later this year by the influx of hundreds of billions of dollars because recent U.S. tax reform cut corporate tax rates, he said.

"We are going to see money hit the economy this year we've never seen before," Augustine said.

That means employees will see such things as better employer matches in retirement plans, the repatriation of corporate money into the U.S. and more, he said.

"You are probably going to hear a lot of dividend increases this spring," Augustine said.

Corporate earnings "are going up noticeably," which is good for stock prices, he said.

People and businesses need to "turn optimism into action," he said. For individuals, that means working this year on improving their investments and financial management, he said.

"These moments of prosperity don't come around very often," he said.

Augustine said his previous economic forecast for 2018 may need to be revised upward.

"What is all this money going to do when it hits the economy?" he said.

The U.S. economy historically grew at an average of 3 percent a year, Augustine said. That average growth fell down to the "2s" in the aftermath of the Great Recession, he said.

"Now it's going to speed up," Augustine said. "The economy is doing fine."



Not every economic segment will shine, he noted.

The automobile industry likely will be "sideways" for a while, Augustine said. That has implications for all the businesses that rely on the U.S. auto industry, he said.

Meanwhile, housing construction appears to be improving based on building permit figures, he said.

Good news for the manufacturing-heavy Midwest is that capital expenditures are increasing and exports are up, he said.

"A lot of our businesses are tied to capital spending," he said.

Farming, which has struggled, may be able to pass along increased prices later this year, he said.

The greater Akron area is also doing well, Augustine said.

Housing prices have recovered, gross domestic product is up, and the unemployment rate is down, he said.

But while the jobless rate is down, the number of people who are employed has not climbed back to levels in 2007, at the start of the Great Recession, Augustine said.

"That is a trend in our state," he said.

One solution is to encourage people who have moved elsewhere to come back, Augustine said. A major selling point for the region is its quality of life, he said.

"We need more people," he said. "Our labor force has basically moved sideways for seven years. ... We need our labor force to move up."

Businesses continue to say they have labor quality issues, Augustine said. Managers are spending more of their time on talent management and recruiting, he said.

"The economy is doing good. Labor is what's in shortage," he said.

Nick Browning, Huntington's Akron Region president, briefly addressed the audience and said Northeast Ohio residents should encourage young people who have moved elsewhere to return home. One big attraction is that Akron has a "culture of caring," he said.

And there will be lots of job openings in upcoming years as baby boomers such as himself retire, he said. The area cannot afford to lose any talent, he said.

"I think Akron is thriving," Browning said afterward. "It is on the cusp of something I think is really great. ... I think we're seeing the benefit of having new thought leadership in town. The possibilities are out on the table."

Reporter Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ

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