What I’m Watching This Week – 20 July 2014

The Markets

In a week that saw mostly mixed economic data and generally positive earnings reports, markets posted mixed results as well. While tech and international stocks posted slight gains, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost a little less than 1% after Friday’s 123-point drop. Small caps continued their slump, and the S&P 500 finished the week flat despite hitting new records mid-week.

Market/Index 2013 Close Prior Week As of 7/25 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 16576.66 17100.18 16960.57 -.82% 2.32%
Nasdaq 4176.59 4432.15 4449.56 .39% 6.54%
S&P 500 1848.36 1978.22 1978.34 .01% 7.03%
Russell 2000 1163.64 1151.61 1144.72 -.60% -1.63%
Global Dow 2484.10 2622.25 2630.48 .31% 5.89%
Fed. Funds .25% .25% .25% 0 bps 0 bps
10-year Treasuries 3.04% 2.50% 2.48% -2 bps -56 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 Headlines

  • Consumer prices rose 0.3% in June. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the increase was driven largely by higher gas prices, which rose 3.3% and accounted for two-thirds of the increase. By comparison, last month’s rise in inflation was more broad-based. Energy prices were mixed in June: electricity prices rose, while natural gas and fuel oil prices fell. Food prices rose modestly, while the index for all items except food and energy rose by a slight 0.1%. For the 12 months ended in June, inflation rose 2.1%.
  • Existing-home sales climbed 2.6% in June, reported the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of more than 5 million, sales are at their highest rate since October 2013. Inventories rose 2.2% to 2.3 million homes, indicating a 5.5-month supply at the current rate of sales. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said, “Inventories are at their highest level in over a year and price gains have slowed to much more welcoming levels in many parts of the country. This bodes well for rising home sales in the upcoming months as consumers are provided with more choices.”
  • On the other hand, sales of new single-family homes plummeted by more than 8% in June from May, according to a report issued jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The seasonally adjusted rate of 406,000 homes was 11.5% lower than the June 2013 estimated figure.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced amendments to the rules that govern money market mutual funds. According to a press release issued by the SEC, the amendments are intended to guard against a run on such funds in times of crisis, “while preserving the benefits of the funds.” The rules require a floating net asset value for prime money market funds serving an institutional client base. Prime money market funds serving individual investors will continue to strive for a stable $1 share price, although there can be no guarantees that such a price will be maintained. The new regulations also allow non-governmental money market funds to charge fees or impose other restrictions on investors attempting to withdraw funds during trying times. “This strong reform package will make our markets more resilient and enhance transparency and fairness of these products for America’s investor,” said Mary Jo White, SEC chairperson.
  • In a move that surprised many observers, the Bank of Russia raised its key interest rate for the third time in five months. The central bank lifted the rate by 0.5% to 8% in a move intended to curb inflation, respond to continued geopolitical unrest, and perhaps stymie additional flight of capital resulting from any further economic sanctions.
  • Unemployment insurance weekly claims (i.e., weekly jobless claims), were 284,000 for the week ending July 19. That was a decrease of 19,000 from the previous week and, more notable, the lowest level for initial claims since February 2006.

Eye on the Week Ahead

Next week, market watchers will keep an eye on manufacturing data, home prices, comments from the Fed, and the government’s initial estimates for second-quarter growth figures.

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