Last week had lots of economic and political news—much of which has the potential of impacting the economy and the markets. Some of the week's more important economic news are included below.
- Producer Inflation: March producer prices were 3.0 percent higher than a year ago—compared to 2.8 percent in February. Since the Federal Reserve has a 2.0 percent inflation target, the news is considered to be negative.
- Consumer Inflation: March consumer prices were 2.4 percent higher than a year ago versus 2.2 percent in February. Negative.
- Federal reserve minutes indicated that the Fed is more likely to increase interest rates more aggressively. Short-term negative and long-term positive.
- The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index fell to a still very high 104.7. Slightly negative.
- March same-store chain store sales were up 2.9 percent from a year ago. Slightly positive.
- March export prices were up 0.3 percent for the month, while import prices were flat. Positive.
- Stock prices were up about 2 percent for the week—the strongest in a month. Positive.
- Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress regarding privacy of their platform. Short-term positive and long-term uncertain.
The stream of political news continues at a record or near record pace. Political news creates uncertainty, and markets do not like uncertainty. Impacts on the economy might not be as apparent immediately but will usually have effects as well. If the news implies change, it is often at least a short-run negative. Some of the week's political news are listed.
- The United States and its allies (Britain and France) attacked three of Syria's chemical weapons facilities. Short-run negative for the economy and market, and positive for energy prices. Long-run impacts are uncertain.
- The FBI, at the referral of the Special Counsel, raided the office and residence of President Trump's personal lawyer. Negative.
- A highly critical report of recently fired former F.B.I Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, was released by the Justice Department's Inspector General. Positive.
- Former F.B.I Director James Comey released a book highly critical of President Trump. Negative.
Time appears to be accelerating. Events, possibly world-changing, are occurring at a rapid and increasing pace. The stock markets can be sharply down at the open and sharply higher by the end of the day at the close, or vice versa. The political parties and country are sharply divided. Rhetoric between opposing views is sharp and vitriolic.
In these volatile times, those employing well-reasoned plans, which manage risks, will prosper. Many who make emotional decisions, based upon circumstances, will fail. Wise decision-makers will use caution, evaluate alternatives and deploy resources in a way which manages risks in an uncertain world.
In the kingdom, believers operate by faith. Old Testament heroes had faith. Jesus operated by faith and taught of the importance of us having faith. He routinely asked the sick if they had faith (or believed) that they would be healed. He chastised the disciples when they had little faith and promised that nothing is impossible with faith.
"He replied, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm" (Matt. 8:26).
"Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast him out?" Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief. For truly I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. And nothing will be impossible for you" (Matt. 17:19-20).
The Lord gave clear directions, which if followed, will lead us to victory. Sometimes, in the entanglements of this world, we forget to follow the directions which He so clearly gave. One of the simplest, and most ignored, biblical directions is to ask, seek and knock. We have been promised that if we need something, it will be given when we ask. If we need to find something, it will be found when we seek. If we need something opened, it will be opened when we knock. Many of life's problems will cease to be of concern, we will mature faster and accomplish more for the Lord if we simply take the time to ask, seek and knock.
"And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Luke 11:9-10).
The Lord cautions us to persevere, to believe and to pray according to His will. Sometimes it takes perseverance to obtain answered prayers. Sometimes prayers are answered with weak faith, but more are answered when we believe strongly. When we don't know the Father's will, we should ask Him to reveal it to us, or pray using our prayer language.
"... yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as much as he needs" (Luke 11:8b).
"Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you will receive them, and you will have them" (Mark 11:24).
"This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. So if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have whatever we asked of Him" (1 John 5:14-15).
After instructing us to ask, seek and knock, Jesus assures us that our heavenly Father wants to give us good gifts. Specifically, He wants to give us the Holy Spirit. What could be more powerful than having the Spirit of God lead, comfort and empower us?
"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13).
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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