There was plenty to worry about in the past year as well as the opening of 2016. It is easy to feel like this might be the beginning of a bad stretch for the economy and the world in general. We are being told every day in the newspapers and on TV about falling oil prices, the Syrian refugee crisis, Chinese economic slowdown, mass shootings within our borders…. It is so tangible that it can make you feel that a negative outcome for the stock market is all but inevitable.
Yet, 2015 was also a year of good news. These stories may not have made headlines, but then again, positive news does not sell papers or the advertising they survive on.
The US economy produced the second most jobs since 1999 despite the carnage in the shale oil producing areas of North Dakota and Texas and their resulting layoffs. Unemployment dropped to 5%. In September, FBI statistics revealed a continued trend toward lower rates of violent crime in the United States. In the twenty years ended 2014, there was a 35% reduction in violent crime.
There was also good news outside of our borders.
Famine is now increasingly rare. Related to that, according to the UN the proportion of the world’s population that is undernourished has slipped from 19 percent to 11 percent between 1990 and today. In August came news that there had not been a single case of polio detected in Africa in over 12 months. And just since 2000, worldwide cases of measles have dropped by more than two-thirds. Finally, according to WHO, child mortality rates have improved by 3% in 2015 and 53% in the past 25 years with improvements coming from all 7 reporting regions.
Economically, the IMF forecast 4.0 percent growth for emerging and developing countries for 2015. While this represents a slowdown in growth rates, it is well ahead of population growth. The World Bank declared in September that, for the first time ever, less than 10 percent of the global population lived in extreme poverty, down 37 percent from as recently as 1990.
So it would appear that we are probably healthier, better fed, and have better prospects economically than at any point in history. Let’s hope 2016 is as positive as 2015 actually was, rather than how the news industry portrayed it to be.