The U.S. economy is showing signs of life. Last week, the S&P 500 stock index closed at record highs for the fourth straight week. The New York Fed (Empire State) manufacturing survey index was reported to be 18.7 compared to 6.5 the previous month and forecasts around 7.5 (the highest in two and a half years). The Philadelphia Fed manufacturing report was 43.3 compared to 23.6 the previous month and expectations of a little more than 19 (the highest reading in 33 years). The NFIB small business optimism index is the highest in 13 years. Retail sales and housing permits were both up for the month.
Politicians are known for hyperbole and even misrepresentation as they fallaciously claim credit for outcomes which were not their doing. President Trump tweeted "stock market hits new high with longest winning streak in decades. Great level of confidence and optimism - even before tax plan rollout!" While the tweet may be an exaggeration on the length of the winning streak, the confidence and optimism are mostly accurate.
The S&P 500 stock index has had the longest streak of gains in about 40 months. But the index has gained the most in the first month of a new presidency (3.8 percent) since the 1960s; for Republican presidents, it is the largest ever.
While it might not be the only factor, much of the recent strength in the economy can be related to confidence and optimism in the current administration. The business community is hoping for a significant reduction in taxes, a more cost-efficient regulatory environment, lower health costs and a significant infrastructure program. Time will tell whether these expectations are fully met. But confidence and optimism in President Trump's proposed policies are creating a stronger economy today.
For believers, our confidence and optimism should be in the Lord. Confidence and optimism are closely related to trust and expectation. If we trust in the Lord's wisdom, love, sovereignty, grace, mercy, timing and power, we will have confidence and optimism regardless of this earth's circumstances. We will obey because we love and trust the King of kings. Psalm 37 enumerates many of the things we should not do, things we should do and outcomes which we should expect. Some, but not all, of the directives from Psalm 37 include:
We Should Not
1. Fret (v. 8), because of evildoers (v. 1) or because of those who prosper or make wicked schemes (v. 7),
2. Be jealous of those who do injustice (v. 1),
3. Hold anger or be wrathful (v. 8),
4. Be an evildoer (v. 9) or
5. Entertain evil (v. 27).
1. Trust in the Lord (v. 3, v. 5),
2. Do good (v. 3, v. 27),
3. Practice faithfulness (v. 3),
4. Delight ourselves in the Lord 9 (v. 4),
5. Commit our way to the Lord (v. 5),
6. Rest in the Lord (v. 7),
7. Hope in the Lord (v. 9, v. 34),
8. Be meek (v. 11),
9. Have integrity (v. 18),
10. Be gracious and give (v. 21) and
11. Keep His way (v34).
We Should Expect
1. The desires of our heart (v. 4),
2. Him to bring forth our righteousness (v. 6),
3. Evildoers to be cut off, experience loss and be destroyed (v. 9-10, v. 13, v. 15, v17, vv. 20-22, v. 28, v. 38),
4. That we will inherit the earth (v.9, v. 11, v. 22),
5. An abundance of peace (v. 11),
6. Threats and plots of the wicked against the righteous (v. 12, v. 32),
7. An eternal inheritance (v. 18),
8. Our needs to be met in times of famine (v. 19),
9. The Lord's support (v. 24),
10. Provision (v. 25),
11. To inherit the land (v. 29, v. 34),
12. To be wise and just (v. 30),
13. None of our steps to slip (v. 31),
14. Refuge in times of distress (v. 39)
15. Deliverance (v. 40) and
16. Salvation (vv. 39-40).
Confidence and optimism in man, or in any of the world's systems or philosophies, will always disappoint. Trust in the Lord will always bring peace, blessings and security. We can have the confidence and optimism of a child of a heavenly Father who loves us without measure.
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.
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