White Paper: The Fallacy of Average

By: Paul Cantor, CFA®, AIF®, CFP™
Chief Operating Officer, Principal

I was recently asked by friends why my economic and market outlook was tinged with some concern. It was a valid question from some very intelligent non-financial professionals. The financial media is filled with positive bias as they cheer Apple becoming the first company in history to reach a $1 trillion-dollar market capitalization. Additionally, we just posted the strongest GDP growth that we have seen in years of 4.1% for the quarter. The stock markets hover at near record highs. Consumer confidence is bordering on ebullient. S&P 500 earnings are estimated to grow by nearly 23% for the quarter. Corporate managements are repatriating funds from overseas and buying back stock at unprecedented rates supporting both stock prices and earnings growth. According to S&P Global Rankings, “Total cash held by U.S. nonfinancial companies, including money parked domestically and overseas, rose 9% to a record $2.07 trillion.”1 The unemployment rate ticked down to a new low of 3.9%, the lowest we’ve seen in over 17 years.

Consumer and corporate balance sheets are ostensibly in terrific condition. We are enjoying the second longest economic expansion since 1945 according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. So, why the concern? This paper will add some perspective, looking deeper into the averages to show why they could be fallacious.

Click here to read our full white paper: The Fallacy of Average.