Questioning the viability of the broader markets has admittedly been a futile exercise. Year-to-date, the benchmark exchange-traded fund SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSEARCA:SPY) is up nearly 12%. At such a rate, it’s merely a few percentage points behind gold bullion, which has gained almost 16%. That major geopolitical tensions such as the North Korea crisis resonates fear within the financial markets makes the slim variance all the more startling.
Yet the current rally in equities is arguably most notable for what is moving as opposed to what isn’t. Publicly-traded companies from the so-called vice industry has really shaken up the financial markets. On one hand, such bullishness confirms economic recovery — people have more discretionary income to spend on discretionary purchases, including stripteases and other questionable services. But the sharp rise amid the lack of true change in the economy brings more questions than answers.
A prime example is the “hospitality” sector, more commonly known as “gentlemen’s clubs.” When discussing the vice industry, strippers come quickly to mind. And almost as soon as now-President Trump won the 2016 general election, shares of publicly-traded strip clubs veritably soared. Today, some companies are more than 100% higher than a year ago.
Other members of the vice industry, such as casinos and marijuana-related firms, have also witnessed their own dramatic rallies in the financial markets. But what really changed in the past nine or ten months? Yes, the argument about economic recovery is stronger than it was during the Obama administration, but that’s only a minor technicality.
No matter how you look at it, the economy hasn’t changed. We just decided to look out a different window.
Such bait-and-switch tactics may work against the uninformed. But discerning minds recognize that rather than an economic recovery, we may be on the verge of another recession. Consider that car sales are down sharply throughout the trailing year — Trump or no Trump. To a lesser magnitude, the same thing can be said about existing home sales.
This dynamic is not indicative of an economic recovery. Instead, speculation is simply driving up the financial markets. At any given moment, a critical sector like transportation, real estate, or manufacturing can have the floor ripped out from underneath it.
So what about the vice industry? Why are they doing so well in the financial markets? I believe that what we are seeing is a mass wave of escapism. Unable to get ahead through the traditional means of hard work and savings, Americans are focusing on the pleasures of the here and now.
This dynamic may last for quite some time, thus making the vice industry an ideal investment. But this is also an indicator that not all is well with the economic recovery. The foundation should be built first before the discretionary sectors.
What we’re witnessing is the very opposite.