Weighing the Week Ahead: Is it Time to Worry About 2020?

The economic calendar is loaded with the most important reports. The four trading days are divided by a Wednesday holiday, meaning some extra days off for most. Normally the data would dominate the discussion. But many find the current story — steady growth, improved earnings, and lack of oomph in stocks—a boring one. This week’s Barron’s cover story by Ben Levisohn, discussed more extensively below, is a good illustration.

With fewer immediate worries, the punditry is looking ahead. Are they correct?

Is it time for investors to worry about 2020?

Last Week Recap

In my last edition of WTWA I guessed that discussion would focus on the apparent economic headwinds. While the data were not bad, the emerging story on trade grabbed attention every day. A slight increase in volatility provided more fuel for analysis, as we can see below.

The Story in One Chart

I always start my personal review of the week by looking at a great chart. I especially like the version updated each week by Jill Mislinski. She includes a lot of valuable information in a single visual. The full post has even more charts and analysis, including commentary on volume. Check it out.

The market was down 1.3% wider daily ranges than we have recently seen. The week’s trading range was about 2%, the highest in several weeks. I summarize actual and implied volatility each week in our Indicator Snapshot section below. Volatility is back into the long-term range.

A longer perspective (one of several great charts in this weekly article) puts the first half of 2018 in context.

This year’s flat stretch is not unlike prior periods in 2012 and 2013. The 2015-17 period was a longer version, ending with the election. None of this tells us what will happen next, of course, but it does show that periods like this are typical – even in bull markets.


I try, but Alan Steel is so much better – clever, witty, and colorful. I had the idea of including something about data from all the weeks that had a holiday on Wednesday. You could look at what happened in the first part and the last part. You could break it down by season. You might not have very many cases, but that is the way to “prove” anything!

Alan makes a similar point about slender and contradictory evidence. Here is my favorite segment but read the entire post to pick your own.

These made-for-TV plots and market parodies are being paraded about in apocalyptic scenarios – aloof to any action or inaction on our part – where we’re damned in either direction… and there’s always a piano falling down towards the spot where we’re currently standing.

An example?

On any given day someone might say interest rates will rise, fall or stay the same, which will then be made to mean that something bad is, will or has already happened.

Now try replacing “interest rates” with any common market, economic or environmental parlance or barometer – like oil prices, iceberg melt or inflation – and see how panic and paranoia determines how long the story rolls on…and the increased charges to advertisers to capture all those clicks, hits and “uniques.”

Then watch as they roll out the TV news anchors’ protracted red carpets – with single variable correlation starlets posing garbed and garbled in a fancy dress extravaganza of big words with small meanings.

If you understand the line about starlets, you qualify as a veteran WTWA reader!