What I’m Watching This Week – 10 December 2018

The Markets (as of market close December 7, 2018)

Losses in technology and health-care stocks accounted for much of last week’s market drop. The tech-heavy Nasdaq and the small caps of the Russell 2000 suffered the largest declines, leading a week of high market volatility. Bank and industrial stocks also took a big hit last week. Oil prices rose on news that OPEC members agreed to cut back production next year. Uncertainty over the economy and a prolonged trade dispute between the United States and China seem to be prompting investors to capture any stock gains and invest in bonds and futures such as gold. The yield on 10-year Treasuries continued to drop as bond prices climbed with increased demand.

Oil prices closed up for the second week in a row, ending last week at about $52.21 per barrel by late Friday, up from the prior week’s closing price of $50.72 per barrel. The price of gold (COMEX) gained for the fourth week in a row, climbing to $1,253.70 by Friday evening, up from the prior week’s price of $1,227.80. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.451 per gallon on December 3, 2018, $0.088 lower than the prior week’s price and $0.049 lower than a year ago.

Market/Index 2017 Close Prior Week As of 12/7 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 24719.22 25538.46 24388.95 -4.50% -1.34%
Nasdaq 6903.39 7330.54 6969.25 -4.93% 0.95%
S&P 500 2673.61 2760.17 2633.08 -4.60% -1.52%
Russell 2000 1535.51 1533.27 1448.09 -5.56% -5.69%
Global Dow 3085.41 2936.77 2835.95 -3.43% -8.09%
Fed. Funds target rate 1.25%-1.50% 2.00%-2.25% 2.00%-2.25% 0 bps 75 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.41% 2.99% 2.85% -14 bps 44 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Economic Headlines

  • Job growth slowed in November, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment increased by 155,000 new jobs last month, compared with an average monthly gain of 209,000 over the prior 12 months. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.7% for the third month in a row. In November, job gains occurred in health care, in manufacturing, and in transportation and warehousing. Over the year, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons declined by 0.4 percentage point and 641,000, respectively. Both the labor force participation rate, at 62.9%, and the employment-population ratio, at 60.6%, were unchanged in November. The average workweek decreased by 0.1 hour to 34.4 hours in November. Average hourly earnings rose by $0.06 to $27.35. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by $0.81, or 3.1%.
  • The international trade deficit expanded by $0.9 billion in October, growing to $55.5 billion. October exports were $211.0 billion, $0.3 billion less than September exports. October imports were $266.5 billion, $0.6 billion more than September imports. Year-to-date, the goods, and services deficit increased $51.3 billion, or 11.4%, from the same period in 2017. Exports increased $149.3 billion, or 7.7%. Imports increased $200.6 billion, or 8.4%. The deficit with China grew by almost $3 billion in October over September, and sits at $420.8 billion year-to-date — 23% greater than this time last year.
  • The IHS Markit final U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index™ for November posted its lowest figure in three months, indicating growth in the manufacturing sector, but at a slower pace than October. More encouraging from this report was the notable growth in new orders, export orders, and employment.
  • The November purchasing managers index (PMI®) from the Institute for Supply Management® not only showed growth in the manufacturing sector, but at a higher rate than October. Survey respondents also reported increases in new orders, production, employment, and inventories. Prices and deliveries fell in November from the prior month. While the surveys from Markit and ISM® may differ in some aspects, both reports clearly show that demand remains strong in manufacturing, which is a good sign for the economy.
  • According to the Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®, the services sector expanded in November over October. Business activity, new orders, and prices also grew in October. Only employment decreased slightly from September’s survey results.
  • For the week ended December 1, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance was 231,000, a decrease of 4,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised up by 1,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims dipped to 1.1% for the week ended November 24. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended November 24 was 1,631,000, a decrease of 74,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised down by 5,000.

Eye on the Week Ahead

Several reports that serve as indicators of inflationary trends are out this week, including the Consumer Price Index, the Producer Price Index, and the report on import and export prices. Inflation has been inching up slowly, and these indicators aren’t expected to change that trend for this past November.

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What I’m Watching This Week – 3 December 2018

The Markets (as of market close November 30, 2018)

Stocks rebounded last week, posting their best gains since February. The S&P 500 climbed 4.85% last week, a percentage jump not reached since the end of 2011. Overall, the large-cap indexes and the tech-heavy Nasdaq outperformed the small caps of the Russell 2000, which rebounded nicely, nevertheless. As has been the case for most of the year, foreign trade made headlines early last week as President Trump threatened to impose further sanctions on China in advance of the Group of 20 summit. However, more positive rhetoric from both the White House and China at the end of the week may have quelled worries of an all-out trade war, at least for the time being. Comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell last week implied that the Fed may be rethinking the timing of further interest rate hikes, although another quarter-of-a-point bump in December is still a strong possibility.

Oil prices stabilized following several weeks of losses, ending last week at about $50.72 per barrel by late Friday, up from the prior week’s closing price of $50.39 per barrel. The price of gold (COMEX) gained for the third week in a row, climbing to $1,227.80 by Friday evening, up from the prior week’s price of $1,223.40. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.539 per gallon on November 26, 2018, $0.072 lower than the prior week’s price but $0.006 higher than a year ago.

Market/Index 2017 Close Prior Week As of 11/30 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 24719.22 24285.95 25538.46 5.16% 3.31%
Nasdaq 6903.39 6938.98 7330.54 5.64% 6.19%
S&P 500 2673.61 2632.56 2760.17 4.85% 3.24%
Russell 2000 1535.51 1488.68 1533.27 3.00% -0.15%
Global Dow 3085.41 2852.37 2936.77 2.96% -4.82%
Fed. Funds target rate 1.25%-1.50% 2.00%-2.25% 2.00%-2.25% 0 bps 75 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.41% 3.03% 2.99% -4 bps 58 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Economic Headlines

  • The second estimate of the third-quarter gross domestic product showed the economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.5% — the same rate as reported following the initial estimate last month. The GDP grew at an annualized rate of 4.2% in the second quarter. Compared to the initial estimate for the third quarter, this rendering indicated consumer spending, the main driver of the GDP, declined 0.4 percentage point to 3.6%, while state and local government spending also came in lower. On the other hand, business inventories expanded significantly, adding to the overall growth of the GDP. The trade deficit, a negative in the calculation of the GDP, averaged $74.6 billion in the third quarter.
  • Personal income increased by 0.5% in October. Disposable (after-tax) income also grew by 0.5%. The increase in personal income primarily reflected increases in wages and salaries, proprietors’ income, and government social benefits payments. Consumer spending for goods and services rose by 0.6% in October. Within goods, spending for prescription drugs was the leading contributor to the increase. Within services, the largest contributor to the increase was spending for household electricity and gas. Consumer prices for goods and services increased 0.2% for the month. Core prices, excluding food and energy, inched up 0.1%. For the 12 months ended in October, consumer prices rose 2.0%. Core prices are up 1.8% over the same period — 0.2 percentage point below the Fed’s target inflation rate.
  • The first month of fiscal 2019 saw the international goods trade deficit reach $77.2 billion in October. The deficit was $76.3 billion in September. Exports were $140.5 billion, $0.8 billion less than September exports. Imports of goods for October were $217.8 billion, $0.2 billion more than September imports.
  • The housing sector continues to stall as new home sales dipped 8.9% in October following a 1.0% drop in September. For the 12 months ended in October, new home sales are down 12.0%. The median sales price of new houses sold in October was $309,700 ($321,300 in September). The average sales price was $395,000 ($379,000 in September). The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of October was 336,000, representing a supply of 7.4 months at the current sales rate.
  • For the week ended November 24, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance was 234,000, an increase of 10,000 from the previous week’s level. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims remained at 1.2% for the week ended November 17. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended November 17 was 1,710,000, an increase of 50,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised down by 8,000.

Eye on the Week Ahead

Investors are hoping a favorable employment report this week will favorably influence the stock market.

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What I’m Watching This Week – 26 November 2018

The Markets (as of market close November 23, 2018)

Trading volume may have been slower than usual during the Thanksgiving holiday week, but that didn’t stop the downward spiral for stocks. Tumbling oil prices, which fell to their lowest levels in over a year, pulled energy shares downward and raised fears of an economic slowdown. Each of the benchmark indexes listed here fell sharply last week, headed by the Dow, followed closely by the Nasdaq. As stocks regularly hit new highs earlier in the year, pushing values higher than their 2017 closing marks, all of those gains have frittered away these past few months. Of the indexes listed here, only the Nasdaq is still ahead of its 2017 year-end price — but only barely. Each of the other indexes have fallen notably below last year’s respective values.

Oil prices continued to fall, plummeting to $50.39 per barrel by late Friday, down from the prior week’s closing price of $56.77 per barrel. The price of gold (COMEX) gained for the second week in a row, climbing to $1,223.40 by Friday evening, up from the prior week’s price of $1,221.70. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.611 per gallon on November 19, 2018, $0.075 lower than the prior week’s price but $0.043 higher than a year ago.

Market/Index 2017 Close Prior Week As of 11/23 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 24719.22 25413.22 24285.95 -4.44% -1.75%
Nasdaq 6903.39 7247.87 6938.98 -4.26% 0.52%
S&P 500 2673.61 2736.27 2632.56 -3.79% -1.54%
Russell 2000 1535.51 1527.53 1488.68 -2.54% -3.05%
Global Dow 3085.41 2925.22 2852.37 -2.49% -7.55%
Fed. Funds target rate 1.25%-1.50% 2.00%-2.25% 2.00%-2.25% 0 bps 75 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.41% 3.06% 3.03% -3 bps 62 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Economic Headlines

  • The pace of home building picked up in October, but applications for building permits and home completions each fell below their respective September rates. Applications for building permits were 0.6% below their September pace, while home completions dropped 3.3% from their September estimate. On the other hand, housing starts were 1.5% above their September figures, which should add to new home inventory for November. A comparison of year-on-year rates shows how much the housing sector has slowed. Building permits are down 6.0% from October 2017, housing starts are off by 2.9%, and housing completions are 6.5% below last year’s pace.
  • For the first time in seven months, sales of existing homes expanded. Total existing home sales increased 1.4% in October from September, yet are still down 5.1% compared to a year ago. The median existing-home price in October was $255,400, which is down from September’s price of $256,900 but up from the October 2017 price ($246,000). Total housing inventory at the end of October decreased from 1.88 million in September to 1.85 million existing homes available for sale, representing a 4.3-month supply at the current sales pace.
  • New orders for durable goods fell for the third time in the last four months in October. New orders dropped 4.4% from September. Transportation equipment, down 12.2% following two consecutive monthly increases, drove the decrease. Excluding transportation, new orders increased 0.1%. Shipments of durable goods decreased 0.6% in October, while unfilled orders declined 0.2% following eight consecutive monthly increases. Inventories, down two of the last three months, were virtually unchanged from September.
  • For the week ended November 17, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance was 224,000, an increase of 3,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised up by 5,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims remained at 1.2% for the week ended November 10. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended November 10 was 1,668,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised down by 6,000.

Eye on the Week Ahead

The last week of the month offers several important economic reports, including the second report on gross domestic product for the third quarter. The initial report showed the economy grew at an annual rate of 3.5%. With consumer spending continuing to show strength, the GDP is not expected to vary significantly from last month’s growth rate.

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What I’m Watching This Week – 19 November 2018

The Markets (as of market close November 16, 2018)

Volatility best describes last week in the market, as each of the benchmark indexes listed here lost value. Apparently, investors may be having trepidations about ongoing business growth and fear that the economy is slowing. Declining oil prices have also contributed to diminishing stock index values. Even optimistic rhetoric between the United States and China wasn’t enough to quell investors’ concerns. Following last week’s slide, the indexes listed here are moving closer to their 2017 year-end values. In fact, the small caps of the Russell 2000 have given back all of the gains garnered during the year and are now below last year’s closing mark. Even the Nasdaq, which has led the way for much of the year reaching double-digit year-to-date gains, is now only roughly 5.0% ahead of its 2017 year-end value. Long-term bond prices rose as the yield on 10-year Treasuries fell 12 basis points last week.

Oil prices continue to fall, dropping to $56.77 per barrel by late Friday, down from the prior week’s closing price of $59.83 per barrel. The price of gold (COMEX) reversed course from prior weeks, climbing to $1,221.70 by Friday evening, up from the prior week’s price of $1,209.90. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.686 per gallon on November 12, 2018, $0.067 lower than the prior week’s price but $0.094 higher than a year ago.

Market/Index 2017 Close Prior Week As of 11/16 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 24719.22 25989.30 25413.22 -2.22% 2.81%
Nasdaq 6903.39 7406.90 7247.87 -2.15% 4.99%
S&P 500 2673.61 2781.01 2736.27 -1.61% 2.34%
Russell 2000 1535.51 1549.49 1527.53 -1.42% -0.52%
Global Dow 3085.41 2954.43 2925.22 -0.99% -5.19%
Fed. Funds target rate 1.25%-1.50% 2.00%-2.25% 2.00%-2.25% 0 bps 75 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.41% 3.18% 3.06% -12 bps 65 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Economic Headlines

  • October, the first month of fiscal year 2019, saw the government deficit reach $100.5 billion (59% higher than last October). Receipts totaled $252.7 billion. The government spent $353.2 billion. Of receipts, individual income taxes accounted for $129 billion, while corporate income taxes contributed $8 billion. The largest government expenditures in October were for Social Security ($84 billion), defense ($69 billion), and Medicare ($53 billion).
  • Prices consumers paid for goods and services rose 0.3% in October, after inching up 0.1% in September. Over the last 12 months, the Consumer Price Index has risen 2.5%. An increase in gas prices was responsible for over one-third of the October price increase. The CPI less food and energy rose 0.2% for the month, and is up 2.1% over the last 12 months.
  • A spike in prices for gas, building materials, and autos pushed retail sales up 0.8% in October over the prior month and 4.6% higher than October 2017. Sales, excluding the aforementioned items (otherwise referred to as “control group sales”), rose a more moderate 0.3% for the month. Restaurant sales actually fell 0.2%, following monthly declines in September and August. Heading into shopping season, this report gives an indication that sales will be healthy, if not robust, in November and December.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for imports increased 0.5% in October following a 0.2% increase in September. This is the highest monthly increase in import prices since a 0.9% jump in May. Over the last 12 months ended in October, import prices have increased 3.5%. Expanding fuel prices (up 3.3%) were a major contributor to the import price increase. Excluding fuel, import prices edged up 0.2% for the month. Export prices advanced 0.4% after recording no change in September. The October advance was the largest monthly increase since the index rose 0.7% in May. For the 12 months ended in October, export prices are up 3.1%.
  • Industrial production edged up 0.1% in October, as a gain for manufacturing outweighed decreases in mining (-0.3%) and utilities (-0.5%). Overall, the index for industrial production is 4.1% ahead of October 2017.
  • For the week ended November 10, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance was 216,000, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week’s level. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims increased 0.1 percentage point to 1.2% for the week ended November 3. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended November 3 was 1,676,000, an increase of 46,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised up 7,000.

Eye on the Week Ahead

Thanksgiving week is typically a slow one for market activity. However, there are a few reports out this week that bear watching. October’s housing starts and existing home sales reports are out this week. The housing sector has been slow and is unlikely to pick up much steam as the fall season blends into winter.

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What I’m Watching This Week – 12 November 2018

The Markets (as of market close November 9, 2018)

Despite a fall at the end of the week, stocks rode a midweek push to finish in the black. Oil prices officially reached bear territory, hitting their largest price drop in many years. What looked like a very strong week ended with just minor gains for each of the indexes listed here. The Dow led the way, closing last week almost 3.0% ahead of its prior week’s value. The S&P 500 was close behind, gaining over 2.0%. Domestically, the tech stocks of the Nasdaq and the small caps of the Russell 2000 were hit hardest by last Friday’s sell-off, each index losing most of the gains achieved earlier in the week. Year-over-year, the Nasdaq continues to lead the way, followed by the Dow and the S&P 500. The Russell 2000, which had made considerable gains earlier in the year, has given most of them back. Feeling the ongoing effects of global-growth concerns, the Global Dow has lost value from its 2017 closing mark.

Down 21% from its October high, the price of crude oil (WTI) continued to slide on concerns of oversupply, as prices fell to $59.83 per barrel by late Friday, down from the prior week’s closing price of $62.89 per barrel. The price of gold (COMEX) lost value again last week, dropping to $1,209.90 by Friday evening, off from the prior week’s price of $1,234.50. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.753 per gallon on November 5, 2018, $0.058 lower than the prior week’s price but $0.192 higher than a year ago.

Market/Index 2017 Close Prior Week As of 11/9 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 24719.22 25270.83 25989.30 2.84% 5.14%
Nasdaq 6903.39 7356.99 7406.90 0.68% 7.29%
S&P 500 2673.61 2723.06 2781.01 2.13% 4.02%
Russell 2000 1535.51 1547.98 1549.49 0.10% 0.91%
Global Dow 3085.41 2930.66 2954.43 0.81% -4.25%
Fed. Funds target rate 1.25%-1.50% 2.00%-2.25% 2.00%-2.25% 0 bps 75 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.41% 3.21% 3.18% -3 bps 77 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Economic Headlines

  • As expected, the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee refrained from raising the federal funds rate following its meeting last week. While describing economic activity and job gains as strong, the Committee noted that business investment has moderated. There is one more rate hike in the offing this year, which, if it occurs, would follow FOMC’s December 19 meeting.
  • Producer prices climbed 0.6% in October following a 0.2% rise in September. Much of the increase last month was attributable to a 1.6% jump in trade services. Excluding food, energy, and trade services, producer prices inched up 0.2%. Year-over-year, producer prices are up 2.9% (2.8% excluding food, energy, and trade services).
  • After reaching a high of 7.3 million job openings in August, the number of job openings fell by 284,000 in September, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover report. Notable job losses occurred in professional and business services (118,000), finance and insurance (82,000), and state and local government (67,000). The number of hires in September was 5.7 million, after reaching a revised series high of 5.9 million in August. There were about 5.7 million total separations, which includes quits, layoffs, and discharges. Overall, there were still many more job openings than those considered unemployed.
  • While growth in the services sector continued to show strength in October, expansion slowed compared to September. According to the Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®, business activity, new orders, employment, and prices each grew in October, but at a slower pace than in the prior month.
  • For the week ended November 3, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance was 214,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised up by 1,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims remained at 1.1% for the week ended October 27. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended October 27 was 1,623,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the prior week’s level.

Eye on the Week Ahead

The first Treasury budget report for fiscal 2019 is out this week with the release of October’s figures. The 2018 budget deficit was over $100 billion greater than the 2017 deficit. The Consumer Price Index and the report on retail sales for October are released this week. Consumer prices have gone up, but not at the pace of consumer income and spending.

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What I’m Watching This Week – 5 November 2018

The Markets (as of market close November 2, 2018)

Stocks posted a solid week of returns for the first time in several weeks, pulling all but one of the major benchmark indexes listed here into positive territory for the year to date. A strong labor report helped push stocks higher at the end of last week, while somewhat positive tweets from President Trump following discussions with Chinese president Xi also helped quell investors’ concerns over the ongoing tariff war. Small caps fared the best last week, led by the Russell 2000. Global stocks also reversed course as the Global Dow climbed over 3.0%. The Nasdaq, S&P 500, and the Dow each posted strong returns by last week’s end. Not surprisingly, long-term bond prices fell, driving yields higher.

The price of crude oil (WTI) fell notably last week, closing at $62.89 per barrel by late Friday, down from the prior week’s closing price of $67.69 per barrel. The price of gold (COMEX) lost value for the first time in several weeks, dropping to $1,234.50 by Friday evening, off from the prior week’s price of $1,236.10. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.811 per gallon on October 29, 2018, $0.030 lower than the prior week’s price but $0.323 higher than a year ago.

Market/Index 2017 Close Prior Week As of 11/2 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 24719.22 24688.31 25270.83 2.36% 2.23%
Nasdaq 6903.39 7167.21 7356.99 2.65% 6.57%
S&P 500 2673.61 2658.69 2723.06 2.42% 1.85%
Russell 2000 1535.51 1483.82 1547.98 4.32% 0.81%
Global Dow 3085.41 2843.00 2930.66 3.08% -5.02%
Fed. Funds target rate 1.25%-1.50% 2.00%-2.25% 2.00%-2.25% 0 bps 75 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.41% 3.07% 3.21% 14 bps 80 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Economic Headlines

  • October saw a whopping 250,000 new jobs added while the unemployment rate remained at 3.7%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job gains occurred in healthcare, manufacturing, construction, and transportation and warehousing. There were about 6.1 million unemployed — down almost 450,000 from a year ago. The labor force participation rate increased by 0.2 percentage point to 62.9%. The employment-population ratio edged up by 0.2 percentage point to 60.6% in October and had increased by 0.4 percentage point over the year. The average workweek increased by 0.1 hour to 34.5 hours in October. Also in October, average hourly earnings for all employees rose by $0.05 to $27.30. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by $0.83, or 3.1%.
  • The trade deficit continued to expand in September. The goods and services deficit was $54.0 billion, or 1.3%, in September, up $0.7 billion from August. September exports increased by $3.1 billion, while imports were $3.8 billion more than August imports. Year-to-date, the goods, and services deficit increased $40.7 billion, or 10.1%, from the same period in 2017. Exports increased $143.8 billion, or 8.2%. Imports increased $184.5 billion, or 8.6%.
  • Consumers’ income rose by 0.2% in September, while spending jumped 0.4%, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Disposable (after-tax) personal income also rose by 0.2% for the month. Inflation was steady as prices for consumer goods and services increased 0.1%. However, excluding food and energy, prices bumped ahead by 0.2%. For the year, consumer prices are up 2.0%, right at the inflation target set by the Federal Reserve.
  • Reaching a five-month high, a spurt in new orders helped drive manufacturing in October, according to Markit’s report on manufacturing. The bump in new orders coupled with efforts to clear backlogs drove new hires, which also outpaced September’s rate.
  • The October 2018 Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®, not atypically, differed in its assessment of manufacturing conditions compared to Markit’s survey. The ISM® report had new orders, as well as production and employment, decrease. Oftentimes, the difference between the surveys lies in the number of purchasing managers who respond to each survey and how the responses are weighted.
  • For the week ended October 27, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance was 214,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised up by 1,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims remained at 1.1% for the week ended October 20. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended October 20 was 1,631,000, a decrease of 7,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised up by 2,000. This is the lowest level for insured unemployment since July 28, 1973, when it was 1,603,000.

Eye on the Week Ahead

The Federal Open Market Committee meets this week. Speculation is that the Committee will maintain interest rates at their current level, although that is not a certainty.

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Monthly Market Review – October 2018

The Markets (as of market close October 31, 2018)

October truly was a scary month as stocks closed the month well below their end-of-September values. The tech-heavy Nasdaq lost over 9.0% by the end of October, while the small caps of the Russell 2000 fared even worse, losing almost 11.0%. The S&P 500 fell close to 7.0% — its largest monthly decline in over seven years. The Dow dropped 5.0%, and the Global Dow sank over 7.0%. A slide in internet stocks, coupled with investor concerns that global economic growth is slowing, helped amp up volatility during October. Yields on long-term bonds rose as prices fell, with the yield on 10-year Treasuries climbing about 8 basis points on the last day of the month.

By the close of trading on October 31, the price of crude oil (WTI) was $64.95 per barrel, down from the September 28 price of $73.53 per barrel. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.811 per gallon on October 29, down from the September 24 selling price of $2.844 but $0.356 more than a year ago. The price of gold rose by the end of August, closing at $1,216.80 on the last trading day of the month, up from its price of $1,195.20 at the end of September.

Market/Index 2017 Close Prior Month As of October 31 Month Change YTD Change
DJIA 24719.22 26458.31 25115.76 -5.07% 1.60%
NASDAQ 6903.39 8046.35 7305.90 -9.20% 5.83%
S&P 500 2673.61 2913.98 2711.74 -6.94% 1.43%
Russell 2000 1535.51 1696.57 1511.41 -10.91% -1.57%
Global Dow 3085.41 3121.54 2893.68 -7.30% -6.21%
Fed. Funds 1.25%-1.50% 2.00%-2.25% 2.00%-2.25% 0 bps 75 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.41% 3.06% 3.14% 8 bps 73 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Month’s Economic News

  • Employment: Total employment rose by 134,000 in September after adding 270,000 (revised) new jobs in August. The average monthly gain over the last 12 months is 201,000. Notable employment gains for the month occurred in professional and business services (54,000), health care (26,000), transportation and warehousing (24,000), and construction (23,000). The unemployment rate declined 0.2 percentage point to 3.7% in September. The number of unemployed persons fell to 6.0 million. The labor participation rate remained at 62.7%. The employment-population ratio increased 0.1 percentage point to 60.4%. The average workweek in September was unchanged at 34.5 hours. Average hourly earnings increased by $0.08 to $27.24. Over the last 12 months, average hourly earnings have risen $0.73, or 2.8%.
  • FOMC/interest rates: The Federal Open Market Committee did not meet in October. The next meeting is scheduled for November 7-8.
  • GDP/budget: The initial, or advance, estimate of the third-quarter gross domestic product showed the economy expanded at an annualized rate of 3.5%, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The second-quarter GDP grew at an annualized rate of 4.2%. According to the report, consumer spending surged, increasing at a rate of 4.0% (3.8% in the second quarter). The net exports deficit expanded by $99.0 billion, pulling the GDP down by 1.8%. There was a $119 billion surplus in September. Nevertheless, the government deficit ended the fiscal year at roughly $779 billion — an increase of almost $113 billion, or 17%, over fiscal year 2017. For fiscal 2018, individual tax receipts were $96.4 billion higher than 2017 receipts, while corporate tax receipts fell by $92.3 billion.
  • Inflation/consumer spending: Inflationary pressures continue to creep along, while consumer spending continues to be strong. According to the Personal Income and Outlays report, prices for consumer goods and services rose only 0.1% in September, the same mark reached in August. Core consumer prices (excluding food and energy), a tracker of inflationary trends, rose 0.2%. Core prices have increased 2.0% over the last 12 months — right on the Federal Reserve’s target for inflation. Consumer spending climbed 0.4% in September after jumping 0.5% (revised) in August. Consumer income (pre-tax and after-tax) rose 0.2%, respectively, for the month.
  • The Consumer Price Index rose 0.1% in September after increasing 0.2% in August. Over the last 12 months ended in September, consumer prices are up 2.3%. Core prices, which exclude food and energy, climbed 0.1% for the month and are up 2.2% over the last 12 months.
  • According to the Producer Price Index, the prices companies receive for goods and services actually jumped 0.2% in September, the same increase as in August (revised). Producer prices have increased 2.6% over the 12 months ended in September. Prices less food and energy also gained 0.2% in September, and are up 2.5% over the last 12 months.
  • Housing: New home sales fell 5.5% in September and are down 13.2% from the September 2017 estimate. The median sales price of new houses sold in September was $320,000 ($320,200 in August). The September average sales price was $377,200 ($388,400 in August). Inventory rose to an estimated 7.1-month supply, slightly behind August’s 6.1 months. Sales of existing homes dropped in September by 3.4% from August. Year-over-year, existing home sales are down 4.1%. The September median price for existing homes was $258,100, down from $264,800 in August. However, existing home prices are up 4.2% from September 2017. Total housing inventory for existing homes for sale last month was 1.88 million, down from August’s 1.91 million. Unsold inventory is at a 4.4-month supply at the current sales pace.
  • Manufacturing: Industrial production advanced 0.3% in September, its fourth consecutive monthly increase. For the year, industrial production has advanced 5.1%. Manufacturing output increased 0.2% following a 0.2% increase in August. The output of utilities was unchanged from August but is up 5.4% for the year. The index for mining continued to show strong gains, climbing 0.5% in September and 13.4% over the last 12 months. New orders for long-lasting durable goods, up three of the past four months, grew 0.8% in September, following a 4.6% August increase. Most of the monthly gain was attributable to robust orders for defense aircraft. Durable goods orders excluding transportation inched up a scant 0.1%.
  • Imports and exports: The advance report on international trade in goods revealed that the trade gap expanded in September to $76.0 billion. The deficit for August was $75.5 billion. September exports of goods increased 1.8%, while imports rose 1.5%. Prices for imported goods grew by 0.5% in September after dropping 0.4% in August. Export prices were unchanged for the month. Over the last 12 months ended in September, import prices are up 3.5%, while export prices have advanced 2.7%.
  • International markets: Major investor sell-offs in October have cost global stock and bond markets about $5 trillion in value. The Chinese yuan fell to its weakest price since May 2008, hit by an economic tailspin that’s been exacerbated by U.S. tariffs. The United Kingdom announced that it would be the first industrialized nation to tax digital services, with other countries soon to follow. Angela Merkel announced that she will step down as German chancellor when her mandate ends in 2021.
  • Consumer confidence: Consumer confidence, as measured by The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, rose in October, following a modest improvement in September. Consumer confidence increased in current business and labor market conditions. Consumers also looked favorably on short-term income, business, and labor market conditions.

Eye on the Month Ahead

Investors will be looking for stocks to rebound in November following a treacherous October. November’s midterm elections likely will play a big role in the stock market in particular, and in the economy in general.