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The August trade deficit, second quarter GDP and corporate profits reports were better than expected. The trade deficit fell to $-58.4 billion from $-58.8 billion previously.
The annualized change in Real GDP was 1.4 percent, compared to 1.1 percent before. The year-to-year change in after-tax corporate profits was -1.7 percent, compared to -2.2 percent in July. Stock prices fell upon their release as traders reasoned that the improved outlook increased the odds that the Fed would raise interest rates.
Markets function best when unfettered prices reflect supply and demand. Prices should rise on decreases in supply and/or increases in demand, and fall when supply increases and/or demand decreases. Stock prices should reflect discounted future profits. Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve is becoming increasing important in the price discovery process.
The major policy-making arm of the Federal Reserve is the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). FOMC decisions determine the money supply and influence interest rates, bank liquidity and, indirectly, the economy. Many in the world follow their actions closely. The FOMC announces its policy decisions every six weeks.
Ruchir Sharma (Wall Street Journal in David Stockman's Contra Corner) found that 60 percent of all of the gains in the S&P 500 Stock Index since 2008 occurred on days when the FOMC announced its policy decisions. The average gain on announcement days was 0.49 percent or approximately 50 times higher than the average of other days. Before 1980 these announcement days had little impact, and between 1980 and 2007 the average impact was less than half that of today. Stock market prices appear to be following signals of the Fed more than profits. As prices become more distanced from economic fundaments, the likelihood of bubbles or other economic distortions increases.
Our ministries, just like our Lord's earthly ministry, should have a kingdom focus. We have been given the authority and charge to demonstrate His will on Earth, as it is in heaven. He forgave us of our sins, grounded us with His Word, empowered us with the Spirit and told us seek the kingdom of God first. We have the sacred obligation and privilege to preach, teach and model His kingdom on Earth.
"Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10, MEV).
"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you" (Matt. 6:33, MEV).
The Scriptures provide signals that allow us to evaluate our alignment with the kingdom of God. Principles are embedded within the signals that, if sought, will bring us, our ministries, congregants and families closer to His perfect will being done on Earth. He will be glorified. We and our ministries will be blessed. A few of these signals include:
1. Unity. If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand" (Mark 3:24, MEV).
2. Spirit of repentance. "From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, 'Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand'" (Matt. 4:17, MEV).
3. Recognition of the value of the kingdom. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid. And with joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field" (Matt. 13:44, MEV).
4. Preach the kingdom message with power. "As you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give" (Matt. 10:7-8, MEV).
"For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power" (1 Cor. 4:20, MEV).
5. Seek righteousness, peace and joy. "For the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17, MEV).
If Jesus is our model, maybe we should preach the gospel of the kingdom as He did. The first century kingdom message was confirmed with signs and wonders. Maybe we should teach that way, too.
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.
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