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Friday Charts: Setting the Record Straight on the United States, Europe and Japan

Why use lots of words when pictures will suffice?

That’s our motto on Fridays in the Wall Street Daily Nation.

Once a week, we select a handful of graphics to put important economic and investing news into perspective for you.

This week, I’m dishing on the one thing more painful than the debt ceiling debate, why repetition is important to profitability, and why the fearmongering about the United States being the next Japan needs to stop.

Without further ado, let’s go to the charts!

It Could Have Been Worse

The government is (finally) open again. And that should put an end to the hour-by-hour stock market spasms we endured for the better part of two weeks. Fingers crossed.

Of course, it never hurts to put our most recent trying times into perspective. In this case, it could have been worse.

Despite the uptick in volatility during the shutdown, the average daily percentage move for the S&P 500 Index only increased from +/-0.43% to +/-0.55%, according to Bespoke Investment Group.

That’s a far cry from the volatility we witnessed during the last debt ceiling debate. Back then, the S&P 500 whipsawed, swinging back and forth by an average of 1.92% on any given day.

So rejoice and be glad that this wasn’t as bad as the last time.

Turning Japanese? Not Anymore!

How many times have we heard that the United States was following in Japan’s footsteps? Too many to remember, for sure.

I’ll concede, the similarities were scary: runaway government debt, stubbornly low inflation and, of course, a comatose stock market.

But don’t let anyone dog our great country like that anymore.

As Michael Hartnett, Chief Investment Strategist at Bank of America (BAC), says, “Leveraged areas of the [U.S.] economy appear to be healing more strongly than they did in Japan.” And that’s finally showing up in the stock market.

After mirroring the moves of the Nikkei 225 Index for way too long, the S&P 500 is now officially charting its own course.

Lest you think I’m overly patriotic, here’s a humbling development for U.S. stocks…

European Blue Chips Win Out

After months and months of banging the drum, I know that my wildly contrarian and bullish calls on Europe got tiresome. But please tell me someone listened!

Cheap blue-chip European stocks trounced their American counterparts in the third quarter. By an embarrassing margin, quite frankly.

The SPDR EURO STOXX 50 ETF (FEZ) rallied 16.2%, compared to a mere 2.3% rise for the SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (DIA).

Blue-chip European stocks remain the cheaper of the two. They’re about 10% less expensive on a forward price-to-earnings ratio basis – and almost 50% cheaper on a price-to-book ratio basis.

Plus, they’re still not getting much attention. In other words, it’s still a contrarian trade, which points to more profits ahead. So stick with the trade.

That’s it for this week. Before you go, though, let us know what you think of this weekly column – or any of our recent work at Wall Street Daily – by going here.

Ahead of the tape,

Louis Basenese