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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The stock markets appeared to have priced in a "blue wave" for the past few weeks, and the spending sugar high that would follow.

What happened: The stock markets were wrong. Just like they were almost every time that Nancy Pelosi or Steven Mnuchin would sprinkle a crumb of stimulus hopes, or when some press release would imply that a vaccine or curative therapeutic could be just around the corner.

Reality check: Neither the stock markets nor their "betting markets" derivatives are any better at predicting the future than a carnival fortune teller.

  • Instead, they are more like babies: Quick to react, eager to grab at shiny baubles, and lacking in object permanence.

The difference between markets and babies, though, is that lots of people (media included) give credence to their phony clairvoyance.

  • To be sure, certain investors have more foresight than others. Some are just plain lucky.
  • But, when it comes to broad-based market movement, it would do us all some good to stop pretending that it has special meaning: that "they" must know something that other well-informed individuals do not.

The bottom line: The best way to move forward, is to remember that markets are really looking backwards, if only for a moment.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 16, 2020 - Economy & Business

Fed pledges to continue buying bonds until economy makes "substantial" progress

Fed chair Jerome Powell. Photo: Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve kept rates unchanged at 0%–0.25% at its latest policy meeting, but changed its statement to include a promise to continue to buy at least $120 billion of bonds each month "until substantial further progress has been made toward the Committee’s maximum employment and price stability goals."

Why it matters: Fed chair Jerome Powell consistently stressed during his press conference that the Fed was nowhere close to reducing its massive bond-buying program, even though its evaluation of the economy had improved and would continue to provide monetary policy support.

Surprising pandemic side effect: Soaring trade deficits

Source: Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis; Chart: Axios Visuals

Inflation and jobs may get all the economic headlines, but meanwhile a big shift is taking place in the underpinnings of the world economy: The U.S. trade deficit is soaring.

What's happening: Americans' spending on imported physical goods has gone through the roof, while exports are growing slowly, making the U.S. the world's consumer of last resort.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Third Way: "Big Lie" could become "Big Coup"

Graphic: Third Way

Third Way, the center-left think tank, is urging fellow Democrats to respond to the Capitol riot with "the size, scope, and seriousness of a presidential campaign," co-founder Matt Bennett tells me.

Driving the news: "For the first time in U.S. history, a party must mount two parallel presidential campaigns: one to win the election, and the other to prevent its theft," Bennett said, calling this "a Paul Revere moment."