Good-news, bad-news upshot: bull market
First the good news: The economy is in no danger of overheating. Interest rates are falling. Oil prices are weakening. Now the bad: The economy could be cooling too rapidly. The dollar's strength is eroding. Oil companies could be hurt by price cutting.
Of course, many other ingredients go into the investment soup as well. For one, the presidential debate will have been heard by the time you read this, and polls will be trickling in. President Reagan's Oct. 7 debate performance was seen by some analysts as causing at least some poor market performance in ensuing days. For another, individual corporations may bring in disappointing earnings.
Wall Street is testing this broth, and on balance it seems palatable. The Dow Jones industrial average soared 29.49 points last Thursday, and experienced heavy volume Friday, although it posted only a modest gain. Still, at 1,225.93 it picked up 35.23 points in five sessions.
Except for the slowdown indicated by the report on third-quarter gross national product, the economy seems in fine fettle. A weaker dollar could help boost American exports, and falling oil prices could spark the optimism that would reinvigorate consumer spending. Tumbling oil prices should also put the kibosh on inflation, and interest rates could decline in tandem.
Looking ahead, many analysts believe the stock market could do very well indeed.
That is because inflation will do little damage to corporate profits, so stock dividends will be strong. Nor will corporations have to pay as much in interest charged if they borrow money to improve business.
Moreover, interest rates from fixed-income investments (money market funds, Treasury notes, etc.) will offer less competition to stocks, since the historical overall return on stocks is somewhere in the area of 13 percent and Treasury-bill rates are slipping below that.
Still, not all the market looks good.
Obviously oil companies and oil-service firms are in trouble. Money-center banks might be hurt, too, if the oil countries to which they have made loans now have trouble making payments. And technology stocks - especially start-up high-tech companies - may continue a long-term mediocre performance.
On the other hand, transportation issues, led by airline companies, could do well - as could many, many other companies that benefit from low inflation, low interest rates, and consumer confidence.
Here's how some analysts assess the dramatic economic developments of recent days:
* Economic climate:
''We are obviously at a big turning point for the economy that will have a big impact for years,'' says Dr. David Hale, chief economist at the Kemper Financial Services mutual fund group in Chicago. ''We may be in for long, steady expansion.''
Dr. Hale notes that the 2.7 percent GNP shows some near-term weakness. He says the poor performance of American exports ''makes it clear that the strong dollar is a negative,'' in that it hampers the competitiveness of United States products abroad. True, in recent days the dollar has been weakening. But Hale is not sure if it is just dipping temporarily or is in for a long-term decline.
The oil price break, on the other hand, is ''good for growth,'' he says, estimating that every $5 decline in the per-barrel price of oil knocks a point off the inflation rate.
Like other analysts, Hale has some concern about the effect of falling oil prices on ''bank quality'' - in other words, will big money-center banks be hurt if their domestic energy loans and their overseas loans to oil countries such as Mexico, Nigeria, and Venezuela are jeopardized?
* Industry performance:
Except for big banks and oil and oil service companies, Suresh Bhirud, market analyst for the First Boston securities firm, sees the climate as ''very bullish for stocks and bonds.''
Within the stock market, Mr. Bhirud notes, there had been restraint in recent weeks because of lower-than-expected third-quarter earnings reports from big corporations. There had also been fears of a recession on the horizon. But now, he says, ''the market may be willing to overcome those negatives.''
This analyst's view of which market groups will do best dovetails with the economic climate: (1) financial services - savings-and-loans, mobile-home companies, insurance and miscellaneous financial firms; (2) transportation - airlines, trucks, airfreight; (3) consumer-oriented firms - retail and general merchandise stores; (4) and areas such as restaurants, hotels and motels, and auto companies.
* The Dow:
At the Merrill Lynch brokerage, market analyst Hans Schueren says: ''We see the Dow above 1,258 by election day, and we still see a new high by the end of the year.'' Interest-sensitive stocks (like the financial services mentioned by Mr. Bhirud) will do best, Mr. Schueren says, and overall, ''the large-capitalization stocks will be the leaders.''
His view is virtually echoed by Newton Zinder of E. F. Hutton in New York: ''We're looking for a challenge of the near-term highs - 1,240 to 1,250 - and a possible assault on the all-time high of 1,285.'' Mr. Zinder agrees that those companies that benefit from lower energy prices and overall disinflation will fare best.
He also notes that while oil stocks have been a drag on the Dow overall, they were for some time already - ''and if oil stocks just quit going down, that may help the Dow.'' Other drags might be commodity-oriented companies such as chemical companies and metal mining firms.