NFIB Survey: Sends A Strong Warning About Small-Cap Stocks

In September 2019, I wrote “NFIB Survey Trips Economic Alarms,”Of course, it was just a few short months later the U.S. economy fell into the deepest recession since the “Great Depression.” The latest NFIB survey is sending a strong warning to investors piling into small-cap stocks.

While the mainstream media overlooks the NFIB data, they really shouldn’t. There are currently 30.7 million small businesses in the United States. Small businesses (defined as fewer than 500 employees) account for 99% of all enterprises, employ 60 million people, and account for nearly 70% of employment. The chart below shows the breakdown of firms and jobs from the 2019 Census Bureau Data.

NFIB Small-Cap Stocks, NFIB Survey: Sends A Strong Warning About Small-Cap Stocks

Despite all the headlines about MicrosoftApple, Tesla, and others, small businesses drive the economy, employment, and wages. Therefore, what the NFIB says is relevant to what happens in the economy.

NFIB Shows Confidence Drop

In December, the survey declined to 95.9 from a peak of 108.8. Notably, many suggest the drop was “politically driven” by conservative owned businesses. While there was indeed a drop following the election, the decline continues what started in 2018.

(Click on image to enlarge)

NFIB Small-Cap Stocks, NFIB Survey: Sends A Strong Warning About Small-Cap Stocks

As I discussed when the index hit its record high previously:

Record levels of anything are records for a reason. It is the point where the sustainability of activity can not be increased further. Therefore, when a ‘record level’ is reached, it is NOT THE BEGINNING, but rather an indication of the MATURITY, of a cycle.” 

That point of “exuberance” was the peak of the economy.

Before we dig into the details, let me remind you this is a “sentiment” based survey. Such is a crucial concept to understand as “Planning” to do something is a far different factor than actually “doing” it.

An Economic Boom Will Require Participation

Currently, many analysts expect a massive economic boom in 2021. The basis of those expectations is massive “pent-up” demand when the economy reopens.

I would agree with that expectation had there been no stimulus programs or expanded unemployment benefits. Those inflows allowed individuals to spend during a recession where such would not usually be the case. Those artificial inputs dragged forward future or “pent-up” consumption into the present.

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