The good times on Wall Street, where stocks are trading near record highs as the longest bull run in history rolls on, aren’t being enjoyed in many foreign markets, where trade disputes and a strong dollar are hurting growth and pushing stocks sharply lower.
Earlier this week, some markets – such as Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index, mainland China’s Shanghai composite and a broad-based emerging markets exchange-traded fund – fell more than 20 percent from their January highs into bear market territory. In contrast, the U.S.-focused large-company Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index is up nearly 9 percent this year and just a tad shy of its record closing high hit in late August.
Bulls see the trend of U.S. stocks doing better continuing, stressing that the domestic market is a haven of sorts. They make the case that the U.S.-driven economy, which grew 4.2 percent last quarter, is less vulnerable to the downside of global trade disputes. Consumers, responsible for about two-thirds of the nation’s growth, are in good shape. Both shoppers and workers are benefiting from the lowest unemployment rate in 18 years, a key factor that lifted profits at U.S. companies last quarter at the fastest pace since 2010.
Pessimists, counter that the U.S. won’t be shielded from slowing growth abroad forever. They warn that the American economy and stock market aren’t totally immune to the slowdown abroad. Big companies in the S&P 500 get more than 40 percent of their sales from abroad, so continued weakness will eventually cause both U.S. business and corporate earnings to slow.