What I’m Watching This Week – 26 January 2015

The Markets

It was a clean sweep for the Nasdaq as it posted gains on all four days of a market week shortened by Martin Luther King Day. As the Nasdaq was moving into positive territory for the year, the other major indices lost ground on Friday, at least in part due to the uncertainty caused by the death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, but all posted solid gains for the week. The markets generally ignored signs of an economic slowdown in China and the continuing slide in oil prices.

Market/Index 2014 Close Prior Week As of 1/23 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 17823.07 17511.57 17672.60 .92% -.84%
Nasdaq 4736.05 4634.38 4757.88 2.66% .46%
S&P 500 2058.90 2019.42 2051.82 1.6% -.34%
Russell 2000 1204.70 1176.65 1188.93 1.04% -1.31%
Global Dow 2501.66 2447.65 2501.48 2.2% -.01%
Fed. Funds .25% .25% .25% 0% 0%
10-year Treasuries 2.17% 1.83% 1.79% -4 bps -38 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

  • While “deflategate” dominated American airwaves last week, concern about a deflationary spiral of a different kind caused the European Central Bank to announce a qualitative easing program worth at least €1.1 trillion ($1.3 trillion). The ECB hopes this monetary stimulus will increase investment and consumption, and turn around Europe’s stagnating economy.
  • Greek drama redux: Greece’s anti-austerity opposition party Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras, topped vote-getters in Sunday’s election, but fell just two seats short of the number necessary for a parliamentary majority, leading Syriza to announce it would form a coalition government with another anti-austerity party, the Independent Greeks. At risk, with the anti-bailout Syriza party in control, is Greece’s willingness to go along with conditions imposed by its creditors after bailouts in 2011 and 2013, which could prompt fresh concerns about default and a “Grexit” from the eurozone.
  • Despite low inventories, existing-home sales bounced back in December and climbed above an annual pace of 5 million sales for the sixth time in seven months, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Existing-home sales rose 2.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in December, up from 4.92 million in November, and up 3.5% from last December, the third straight month of year-over-year increases. Median home prices for 2014 rose to $208,500, their highest level since 2007, but total sales fell 3.1% from 2013.
  • Meanwhile, the Department of Commerce announced that new residential construction rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,089,000, a 4.4% increase over November, and a 5.3% increase over December 2013. Single family home starts rose 7.2% in December, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 728,000, the best since 2007.
  • The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index® for the United States increased 0.5% in December, following a 0.4% increase in November, and a 0.6% increase in October. Ataman Ozyildirim, Economist at The Conference Board, said that “December’s gain in the LEI was driven by a majority of its components, suggesting the short-term outlook is getting brighter and the economy continues to build momentum.”

Eye on the Week Ahead

In what should be a very interesting week, all eyes will be on the Federal Reserve to see how the European stimulus plan might impact the Fed’s plans for U.S. interest rates. And investors will be closely watching for any developments in Saudi Arabia and Greece. Meanwhile, earnings season continues in high gear, with major companies like Apple and Microsoft reporting.