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There are two contradictory and ultimately irreconcilable stories playing out in the global economy right now.
What's happening: Both the market exuberance and trepidation can be traced back to the Federal Reserve's flip-flop on whether to raise interest rates.
The Fed was on pace to normalize policy this year by raising the cost of borrowing money to a level above inflation, and withdrawing the stimulus program that has it buying and holding trillions of dollars in U.S. bonds on its balance sheet.
Why it's bad: Analysts say the Fed's U-turn shows that the world's top economic minds see danger.
Why it's good: The Fed's rethink looks to be doing exactly what it was designed to do.
The change in monetary policy has split analysts' opinions:
Be smart: Many fund managers are genuinely bullish on the U.S. economy and stocks, but buying trends haven't showed it. Rather than adding high-risk stocks or diving into emerging markets, as has typically been the case during times of increased confidence, asset managers are selling stocks or staying neutral, data shows.
In fact, asset managers at major firms like BlackRock, UBS, Goldman Sachs and even private equity giant KKR are encouraging caution and moderation.
Reality check: The dirty little secret of this year's stock market rally is that it has been fueled by share buy backs rather than real-money investors buying. But that's now starting to change.
The bottom line: There's no perfect answer here. U.S. economic data has been mixed since the Fed's reversal and more investors have come to the conclusion that they did the right thing. But at some point the global economy will have to stand on its own, without artificially low interest rates and trillions in stimulus from central banks. The big question is how far away we are from that point.
Italy's back-to-back economic contractions to end 2018 put the country in recession and its stock market, like most of Europe suffered. Things aren't looking to get much better this year, as country has a projected growth rate of 0.1%.
But since Dec. 27, Italy's benchmark FTSE MiB has been on a tear, rising to bull market territory and outperforming broader European stocks and the S&P 500. (The S&P 500 hit its lowest point on Dec. 24 and the FTSE MiB hit bottom on Dec. 27.)
It's been a rally based on relief, says Joseph Trevisani, senior analyst at FX Street who just returned from a trip to Venice.
Most important to the bounceback, Trevisani says, "the Italians are clearly optimists."
Even the world's top economists, using nothing but economic data releases can't even come close to an agreement on what today's U.S. GDP print will be.
The intrigue: The New York and Atlanta Fed both have GDP forecast tools that plug various readings into a framework in order to provide a rolling estimate of what quarterly GDP is expected to be. Both central bank regional branches insist the forecasts don't reflect opinion or input from the economists, "just the data."
Two major differences between the forecasts:
When hedge fund CEOs, presidential candidates and college professors shout that something is wrong with capitalism as practiced, they are — unwittingly in most cases — attacking a long-deceased, 800-pound gorilla in the economy, Axios' Steve LeVine writes.
What's happening: In recent months, hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, numerous Democratic presidential candidates and others have called for a more socially minded corporate America. But if Friedman were alive, he, with mighty certainty, would have some choice words in response.
Over the subsequent years and decades, Friedman's philosophy became orthodoxy, visible in tax law, accounting standards, business school curricula, and deep-seated corporate and societal attitudes. "There is a 'before-Friedman' and an 'after-Friedman' when it comes to corporate social responsibility," said Jennifer Burns, a professor at Stanford and the author of a forthcoming biography of Friedman.
Go deeper: Read the full story from Steve in Axios Future.