Think back to the 2020 crash. I know, the intervening two years have been extremely hectic, but you can probably remember enough about that world to know what a “K-Shaped Economy” looks like.
Back then, the economy and the market split in half, just like the right side of a letter K. One half went straight down. That was the retailers, restaurants and hospitality stocks that the pandemic effectively rendered uninvestable.
And then there was the other half of the K, full of the technology stocks that stretched to keep the world’s wheels turning in the lockdowns. That half of the economy saw its natural growth curve accelerate fast.
If you were on the right end of the K, you did extremely well. It didn’t take a genius to know that cruise ships were dead money while Zoom (ZM) was in the right place to jump from $90 to $500 once all office meetings went virtual a few years ahead of schedule.
I’m reminiscing here because I increasingly have the feeling that we’re entering another bifurcated era now . . . a tale of two economies.
This time, if you provide services, the economy is as robust as ever. You can work 24/7 and not manage to satisfy demand.
The only challenge, of course, is whether you can operate as profitably as you did before. Odds are good that your own costs have increased. Your margins have shrunk.
You’re working harder to net roughly the same amount when everything’s said and done. But in terms of basic demand, it’s as hot as it gets.
I’m thinking of the airlines here. Restaurants. Hotels. And of course skilled trade . . . plumbers are as busy as ever. Carpenters. Mechanics.
There’s two years of pent-up demand for that stuff. As far as you’re concerned, a forced break will feel good . . . you’re just hoping you can keep working until things slow down a little.
And then there’s the other half of the economy. That’s the stuff that’s vulnerable to an actual slowdown. I’m thinking of financial services, where revenue is barely budging from last year’s level while inflation eats the margins alive. Healthcare. Communications.
These are white-collar industries. After two years of running the world, they’re hitting a wall now in terms of capturing revenue. They’ve come as far as they can.
That’s the side of the economy that’s arguably facing a recession now. Microsoft (MSFT) just cut staff. Big banks like JPMorgan (JPM) have already laid off their mortgage teams.
For these companies, it’s already a recession. Don’t want to buy recession stocks? These are the ones to avoid.
But don’t skip the airlines, for example, until they get a break. That hasn’t happened yet.