You’re excused if you mistakenly think the stock market’s success is good for you. After all, we’re constantly being bombarded with talk of just how FREAKIN’ AMAZING it would be if the Dow could hit 16,000 (we’re looking at you, CNBC).
And, yes, maybe a booming stock market does make your paltry 401(k) look slightly better on paper. The problem is, in the real world -- the world of jobs and bills and paychecks -- the stock market has become almost entirely detached from reality.
Let’s break down just how this happened:
1) Ben Bernanke created a massive stimulus program. It’s called quantitative easing, you’ve heard of it before and you have no idea how it works. All you really need to know is that it’s a Federal Reserve project meant to prop up the economy (and subsequently, the job market) by providing it with quote-unquote easy money through the purchase of lots and lots of bonds. And the markets absolutely freakin’ love it.
2) He’s made it clear the program is meant to help combat the jobs crisis. The Fed chairman has called the country’s long-term unemployment situation a “national crisis.” He’s also said that unemployment plays a huge role in the Fed's decisions about how much to stimulate the economy. The Fed says it wants unemployment to get below 6.5 percent before it'll even think about raising short-term interest rates above their current rock-bottom level of zero percent. And Fed officials have said they wanted unemployment to fall to 7 percent (from 7.2 percent right now) before they think about slowing down their massive stimulus program. (Though Bernanke recently backed away from being that specific.)
3) He's also made it clear that at some point his massive stimulus program must be “tapered,” or slowed down a tad. If you were a market, and life was easy with lots of easy money, and the man with his hand on the easy-money faucet said he may one day slow down the flow, wouldn’t you be upset too? Especially if he’s been rather vague in saying when that day will come, only noting that he’s waiting for signs that the economy is strong enough to stand on its own personified legs? Yes, you would.
4) So since Wall Street likes the easy-money life and reasonably expects it to continue the longer the labor market sucks, they have every reason to cheer when the jobs report doesn’t meet expectations. And that’s exactly what happened yesterday, when the Labor Department announced the U.S. economy only created 148,000 jobs in September.
Capitalism, don’t you just love it sometimes?