Each month I calculate the strength of the US economy using a math based model I call RPA (Recession Probability Analytics). When the number rises above 50 it means the US economy is in the bottom 50% of all economic conditions relative to its history.
While far from perfect, the model has had an uncanny ability to correlate (negatively) with stock market returns. In other words, since I started publishing RPA the S&P 500 is only up about 25% (but very volatile); however, when RPA has signaled less than 50 (the “green light” so to speak), the S&P 500 has risen over 80% (and much less volatile). I began publishing the model live in November of 2007.
Since there’s now nearly 7 years of data on RPA, the full table was getting a little overwhelming with each monthly update. To see the full archive of RPA history just visit this page.
Here’s the past 12 months of RPA (in simplified form):
What RPA is Saying This Month
Two steps forward and one step back…
After the best economic ranking since I started publishing it, RPA has taken a small step back this month. RPA is still strong though, coming in at 20.86.
The only real negative data from September was a decline in new construction permits, which really drove down real estate investments the past 30 days. Otherwise, consumer confidence is still on the rise as is wage growth. If these positives continue, we could be in for a rather good holiday spending season, which often drives equity prices higher.
Alas, as I’ve mentioned (many times) before, the stock market is still due for a correction. Stocks have gone up substantially the past year (and the last 5 years). A pullback from overbought conditions is perfectly normal and happens all the time.
It’s just that from an economic perspective, a pullback would be just that, and not necessarily the sign of a full blown recession. Each pull back we’ve had over the last year has been modest, with most just 4% to 8%. I fully expect we’ll get a real pullback eventually, which would be more like 10% to 15%. It may happen soon (in fact, it may have already started), or may not happen for a few more months (or longer). Either way, stay tuned to blog updates for warning signs.
Since RPA is a math based, mechanical, non-emotional measurement of economic strength – the model is telling us now is a good time to be balanced as an investor. Times are pretty good at the moment, but good times don’t last forever – so be sure to keep on eye on this economic indicator next month.