U.S. financial markets are outperforming the world by the biggest margin in the 21st century, and with good reason: America’s economy improved more in Joe Biden's first 12 months than any president during the past 50 years notwithstanding the contrary media narrative contributing to dour public opinion.

Exceptional returns from dollar-denominated assets, especially the S&P 500 Index in both absolute terms and relative to its global counterparts, can be attributed to record-low debt ratios enabling companies to reap the biggest profit margins since 1950. Corporate America is booming because the Biden administration's Covid-19 vaccination programs and $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan reduced the jobless rate to 4.2% in November from 6.2% in February, continuing an unprecedented rate of decline during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Consider that real, or inflation adjusted, gross domestic product surged at an average annual rate of 5.03% in each of the first three quarters of 2021, and is poised to expand 5.6% for the year based on the average estimate of more than 80 economists surveyed Bloomberg. If that forecast proves accurate, it would be more than 2.8 times the average between 2000 and 2019 and double the average since 1976.

All of which makes Biden's first year in the White House the standout among the seven previous presidents, based on 10 market and economic indicators given equal weight. According to data compiled by Bloomberg, no one comes close to matching Biden's combination of No. 1 and No. 2 rankings for each of the measures:

• Gross domestic product (1)
• Profit growth (1)
• S&P 500 performance (2)
• Consumer credit (1)
• Non-farm payrolls (2)
• Manufacturing jobs (2)
• Business productivity (2)
• Dollar appreciation (2)
• S&P 500 relative performance (2)

Per capita disposable income, which rose 1.08% this year, is the only comparable weakness for Biden, trailing Donald Trump’s 2.17%, George W. Bush’s 2.01%, Jimmy Carter’s 1.80% and Ronald Reagan’s 1.42%.

GDP growth in every incoming administration during the past four decades never exceeded 2.74% until 2021. Biden is now positioned to surpass Carter (5.01%) as the GDP champion of presidents since 1976. Much of the credit goes to The American Rescue Plan, which poured $66 billion into 36 million households and reduced the child poverty rate by 50%, helping the U.S. recover faster from the pandemic than most other nations.

Corporate America was never healthier than under Biden in 2021. Efforts to support consumers flowed through to America’s companies, which are enjoying profit margins of around 15%, the widest since 1950, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Non-financial profit increased 39.3%, making Biden No. 1 among eight presidents with Obama a distant second at 21.6%.

Earnings Bonanza
The boom times have allowed companies to reduce net debt as a percentage of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to the lowest since data was compiled in 1990 for companies in the S&P 500. All this helps explain why the stock market under Biden is second only to George H.W. Bush of any incoming president since Carter.

Americans are certainly feeling good. Consumer credit surged  $196 billion through October, a record under Biden that is 27% more than the increase under No. 2 Donald Trump ($154 billion). Although some of the gains reflect a rebound from 2020 when the pandemic caused many consumers to retrench, they wouldn’t be adding debt if they weren’t feeling confident.

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