Employing Judgment

Gene Epstein, economics columnist for Barron’s Magazine, has proven remarkably adept at dissecting the employment readings put out by the US Government and assessing underlying trends with a reasonable degree of accuracy. In this week’s magazine, he points out that notwithstanding the dramatic negative impact that the employment numbers had on the stock market on Friday, he found much less to be concerned about. In particular, he notes that “…the underlying trend in private employment is still unmistakably positive. Over the first five months of this year, the rise in private-sector payrolls has averaged a reasonably solid 99,000 per month, well above May’s performance. More reassuringly, over the past three months, it has averaged 139,000.” Clearly, global equity markets are still in a very skittish state, but the reactions on both the upside and downside are accentuated to a degree that is inconsistent with the scope and scale of the factors being cited as catalysts for the market moves. Developments in Europe are indeed disturbing, but economic progress in the far east cannot be summarily dismissed because of the European issues. Investors should use such periods of equity market volatility to lighten up when circumstances warrant it and prices rise sharply and likewise should establish or build equity positions when sharp price drops occur.