After a mostly positive week, investors went into Friday seemingly determined to take some money off the table over a weekend when the Ukrainian conflict seemed to promise fresh sanctions against Russia. The small caps of the Russell 2000 took the brunt of the selling with a 1.9% losson Friday alone, while the S&P 500 was left essentially flat.
Last Week’s Headlines
- New home sales plummeted 14.5% in March; according to the Commerce Department, that’s the lowest level since July and more than 13% below March 2013. It’s the first time since September 2011 that year-over-year sales have dropped. The figures raised questions about how much of the recent slump was attributable to winter weather. However, the $290,000 median sales price was 12.6% higher than a year earlier.
- Sales of existing homes also slipped in March, but by only 0.2%, according to the National Association of Realtors®. That left them 7.5% below March 2013. Tight inventories continued to help push prices up; the NAR said the $198,500 median sales price was nearly 8% higher than in March 2013.
- Orders for big-ticket items such as aircraft and electronics surged 2.6% in March, following a 2.1% increase in February. The Commerce Department said the volatile transportation sector was up 4%, while non-transportation items also rose 2%, led by a 5.7% jump in computers and electronics and a nearly 8% increase in orders for communications equipment. Business orders for capital goods rose more than 7%.
- In the wake of an appeals court ruling that struck down so-called “net neutrality” regulations, the Federal Communications Commission proposed new rules that would allow broadband Internet service providers to charge content providers higher fees for speedier Internet connections as long as they did so in a “commercially reasonable” manner. The rules will be subject to public comment before going before the full commission for a vote, possibly later in the year.
Eye on the Week Ahead
Markets will have no shortage of potential influences next week. In addition to tension over Ukraine, the Federal Reserve will meet, though little change in its current tapering is expected. April unemployment figures and the first estimate of Q1 gross domestic product will be released, as will consumer spending and manufacturing data.