What I’m Watching This Week – 22 June 2015

The Markets

The markets responded favorably following the Federal Reserve’s announcement that interest rates would not be raised next month. Both the large-cap Dow and S&P 500 closed ahead of last week. But the biggest weekly gainers were the Nasdaq, which gained 1.3%, and the Russell 2000, which closed the week 1.55% better than last Friday’s close. The national average for gas prices was $2.835–up $0.055 from last week. Gold finished the week up $21 from last week, selling at $1,200.20.

Market/Index 2014 Close Prior Week As of 6/19 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 17823.07 17898.84 18015.95 0.65% 1.08%
Nasdaq 4736.05 5051.10 5117.00 1.30% 8.04%
S&P 500 2058.90 2094.11 2109.99 0.76% 2.48%
Russell 2000 1204.70 1265.02 1284.66 1.55% 6.64%
Global Dow 2501.66 2566.43 2565.76 -0.03% 2.56%
Fed. Funds 0.25% 0.25% 0.25% 0% 0%
10-year Treasuries 2.17% 2.39% 2.26% -13 bps 9 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

  • Economic activity has been “expanding moderately” according to the statement from the latest Federal Open Market Committee meeting. But short-term interest rates will remain as is, at least through the next monthly meeting. The FOMC noted that the “pace of job gains picked up while the unemployment rate remained steady,” there has been growth in household spending, and the “housing sector has shown some improvement; however, business fixed investment and net exports stayed soft.” Inflation continued to run below the committee’s longer-run objective (2%). Ultimately, the committee determined that the current federal funds rate is appropriate pending progress “toward maximum employment and price stability.” Before federal fund rates will be increased, the committee “would like to see more decisive evidence that moderate pace of economic activity can be sustained,” according to Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen.
  • Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell to 267,000 for the week ending June 13, which is a decrease of 12,000 from the previous week. The advanced seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.7% for the week ending June 6, while the total number of insured unemployment claimants was 2.22 million, a decrease of 50,000 from the previous week. Evidencing signs of consistent job creation, new claims have remained under 300,000 over the past 15 weeks–the longest such stretch since 2000, according to the Wall Street Journal. Nevertheless, “at 5.5%, we have an unemployment rate that still exceeds the (Federal Reserve) committee’s best attempts to estimate what is a normal unemployment rate for this economy,” according to Chairwoman Yellen.
  • The Federal Reserve reported on Monday that industrial production decreased 0.2% in May after falling 0.5% in April. Manufacturing output decreased 0.2% in May and was little changed, on net, from its level in January. Meager industrial production is likely due to weak exports and a relatively strong dollar, which could further strengthen if interest rates are raised later this year.
  • Housing starts dropped off in May, but the number of residential building permits soared according to the latest report from the Census Bureau. Privately owned housing starts (e.g., the actual start of construction of a new building) in May were 11.1% below the revised April estimate, but are 5.1% above the May 2014 rate. On the other hand, building permits for housing units were 11.8% above the revised April rate, and 25.4% higher than May 2014. This increase in anticipated new construction is cause for builder optimism according to the National Association of Home Builders. Their housing market index rose 5 points to a reading of 59 for June.
  • The Consumer Price Index rose 0.4% in May over April, which is its largest monthly increase since February 2013. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the largest cost increase belonged to energy, particularly gasoline, which increased 10.4%. The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.1% in May following a 0.3% increase in April.

Eye on the Week Ahead

How will the markets respond to results of the FOMC meeting and Chairwoman Yellen’s speech? Will Greece and its creditors reach a bailout resolution? Throughout the second quarter of 2015, the housing market has been consistently trending upward. Will this week’s reports on new and existing home sales show continued growth?