During an attempt to turn positive in contrast to his consistent negative affirmations on the economy since his election, Obama said that "profit and earning ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you've got a long-term perspective on it." Whether or not this was a planned attempt to appear reassuring to Wall Street, the statement's impact was broadly revealing.
Obviously no-one expects that such a "buy" signal from the President will stimulate unfamiliar investors to leap into the markets. If anything, the observation raises concern on his evident lack of familiarity with the most critical elements of the American capitalist system. At the very least he could have taken the time to become familiar with some of the essential vernacular long practiced by the investment community, Wall Street and senior management of corporate America.
The Dow is down 30% from its election day levels. Although Obama has rushed to stimulate the economy, amplify government presence and government spending, his policies have thus far not found acceptance from Wall Street and the markets. The state of the economy, and its persistence at the top of the priority list, should have provided him some incentive to become educated on the key components of American industry, and the nature of business.
Profit and earnings are usually considered the same thing, therefore the ratio between the two is one. Price-to-earnings ratios on the other hand, have been effective deciding measures used by investors when assessing relative risks inherent in purchasing individual company stocks or baskets of stocks through index funds. The price divided by the earnings through the most recent trailing twelve-month period, provides the P/E ratio, and can easily be compared to that of other companies.
While Obama's commentary might have been well-meaning, it suggests a general lack of knowledge about profitability and yield. These are the biggest concerns of all business leaders whether these are large corporations or smaller employers. The success of these companies, their ability to raise capital, and their profitability, will be a source of the much touted, but little defined economic growth that will result from the stimulus billions. These companies will in future provide a principal source for the cash that will repay the overwhelming debt. Obama will require more than a vague or passing acquaintance with the engines that will enable a return to prosperity, as he leads the charge to inject trillions into bailouts and the so-called stimulus of the economy.
Is this a foretelling of outcomes similar to what we witnessed in the aftermath of Bush's disastrous decision to invade Iraq? A President completely unaware of all things foreign, made a historically momentous decision to invade another country for still vague or questionable reasons. Are we to assume that in the equally significant decisions that are required when addressing a depressed economy, a complete lack of awareness will somehow surprise us and serve the day with wisdom? Is Obama aware that he absolutely must provide himself a condensed education on the inner workings of small and large businesses?
As we have previously suggested, the 44th President must rapidly acquaint himself with a few necessary tools for the effective management the largest economy in the world such as inflation, which is waiting just around the corner. The markets have never been forgiving, and will not likely find comfort where out-of-control spending and excessive debt are the principal measure of the world's leading government.
The President should also become very inquisitive as to the nature of his nation's currency, its bonds and its capital markets. On his way to borrowing the trillions of dollars to fund his agenda, he will better understand what he is asking for from the country's international creditors, and will better comprehend the relative position into which he will be placing his country. Those behind the lending wicket will have little empathy for America's concerns over currency, national security or trade balances. It is hoped that a little more knowledge will heighten the wisdom during the chastening process of borrowing, and will stimulate the discovery of less expensive paths to economic health. Such appreciation might also provide the administration with some confidence that business and capitalists are not its enemies.