What I’m Watching This Week – 28 September 2015

The Markets (as of market close September 25, 2015)

Like an early fall flu, investor anxiety continued to spread last week as uncertainty around the future of interest rates continued to drag down markets. Even a Friday rally in blue chips spurred by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s most recent comments couldn’t cure the malaise. All indexes tracked here posted losses, with the Russell 2000 dropping nearly 3.5%.

Gold rose to $1,145.50, compared to $1,139.10 a week earlier, while crude oil ended the week at $45.34 a barrel. The national average regular gasoline price declined for the fifth week in a row to $2.327 per gallon on September 21, down $0.048 from the previous week and $1.285 lower than a year prior.

Market/Index 2014 Close Prior Week As of 9/25 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 17823.07 16384.58 16314.67 -0.43% -8.46%
Nasdaq 4736.05 4827.23 4686.50 -2.92% -1.05%
S&P 500 2058.90 1958.03 1931.34 -1.36% -6.20%
Russell 2000 1204.70 1163.35 1122.79 -3.49% -6.80%
Global Dow 2501.66 2326.45 2259.74 -2.87% -9.67%
Fed. Funds 0.25% 0.25% 0.25% 0% 0%
10-year Treasuries 2.17% 2.13% 2.17% 4 bps 0 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

  • In a speech at the University of Massachusetts, Fed Chair Janet Yellen seemed to quell some uncertainty about the U.S. economy, saying she expects the Fed to raise interest rates “sometime later this year.” Of course, she qualified the prediction by saying the organization would continue to rely on economic data.
  • In an announcement that came as a surprise to even some of his closest congressional colleagues last Friday, John Boehner (R-OH) announced his resignation as House Speaker and congressman, effective October 30. The announcement follows long-term criticism by members of his own party that the Speaker was not strong enough in supporting GOP principles, and comes amid heated negotiations over a bill that is needed to extend federal funding beyond September 30.
  • The third estimate for second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) was revised upward to 3.9% from the previous estimate of 3.7%, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The growth is primarily due to accelerations in consumer spending, exports, nonresidential fixed investment, and state and local government spending. The upward revision was largely attributed to positive revisions in consumer spending, and nonresidential and residential fixed investment, partially offset by a downward revision in private inventory investment.
  • After three months of gains, total existing home sales fell 4.8% in August to 5.31 million. Moreover, July figures were revised downward to 5.58 million, reported the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Despite the drop, sales are 6.2% higher than one year ago, and have risen year-over-year for 11 consecutive months. The median existing-home price for August was $228,700, 4.7% higher than in August 2014. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, attributed the decrease to tight inventories.
  • On the other hand, sales of new homes continue to be an economic bright spot, rising 5.7% in August, to 552,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The figure is nearly 22% above the August 2014 estimate. The median sales price of new homes in August was $292,700, while the average was $353,400.
  • The September reading from the Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index remained unchanged from its August 22-month low. At 53.0, the reading is one of the slowest rates of overall manufacturing expansion in nearly two years and is lower than the post-financial-crisis average of 54.3. While output rose at a faster pace in September, the increase was offset by a softening in new business and employment growth.
  • After two months of increases, durable goods orders declined by 2% in August. Excluding transportation, which fell by 5.8%, orders were virtually unchanged.
  • Jobless claims rose by 3,000 for the week ended September 19, to close at 267,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate remained unchanged at 1.7%.
  • The University of Michigan’s final reading on consumer sentiment for September was 87.2, compared to August’s 91.9. Although at its lowest level in 11 months, the reading is 3% higher than it was a year ago. It is also higher than the mid-September figure reported earlier this month. “The decline in optimism continued to narrow in late September as consumers increasingly concluded that the stock market declines had more to do with the international conditions than the domestic economy,” said Surveys of Consumers chief economist Richard Curtin.

Eye on the Week Ahead

Eyes will be on Washington this week, to see if lawmakers can agree on a measure to continue funding the federal government through early December. Investors will monitor whether Boehner’s resignation announcement will affect the negotiation process. Also on tap are more housing market and manufacturing data, as well as information on personal income and expenditures and the overall job picture.

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What I’m Watching This Week – 21 September 2015

The Markets (as of market close September 18, 2015)

Despite news that interest rates would not be increased in September, the stock market endured a significant sell-off by week’s end, presumably in response to the Federal Reserve’s report that the economy isn’t strong enough to warrant an interest rate hike. Of the indexes listed here, the Nasdaq and Russell 2000 posted slight gains, while the large-cap Dow and S&P 500 regressed. Only the Nasdaq has posted positive returns year-to-date while the other listed indexes have all lost compared to the close of 2014.

The price of gold (COMEX) jumped a bit higher, selling at about $1,139.10 by late Friday afternoon compared to $1,107.90 a week earlier. Crude oil (WTI) prices remained relatively the same, selling at $44.98 per barrel by week’s end. The national average retail regular gasoline price decreased to $2.375 per gallon on September 14, 2015, $0.062 under the previous week’s price of $2.437 per gallon and $1.033 below a year ago.

Market/Index 2014 Close Prior Week As of 9/18 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 17823.07 16433.09 16384.58 -0.30% -8.07%
Nasdaq 4736.05 4822.34 4827.23 0.10% 1.93%
S&P 500 2058.90 1961.05 1958.03 -0.15% -4.90%
Russell 2000 1204.70 1157.79 1163.35 0.48% -3.43%
Global Dow 2501.66 2328.19 2326.45 -0.07% -7.00%
Fed. Funds 0.25% 0.25% 0.25% 0% 0%
10-year Treasuries 2.17% 2.19% 2.13% -6 bps -4 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

  • The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) determined at its September meeting that economic conditions have not shown sufficient progress to warrant an increase in short-term interest rates. According to the FOMC press release, while there were improvements in the labor market with solid job gains and declining unemployment, inflation has “continued to run below the Committee’s longer-run objective, partly reflecting declines in energy prices and in prices of non-energy imports.” Also, “recent global economic and financial developments may restrain economic activity somewhat and are likely to put further downward pressure on inflation in the near term.” As to when interest rates might be increased, “the Committee anticipates that it will be appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate when it has seen some further improvement in the labor market and is reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2% objective over the medium term.”
  • Growth continues in retail sales and services. According to the latest Census Bureau report, retail and food services sales increased 0.2% for August from the previous month and 2.2% from August 2014. Continuing its positive trend, total sales for the June 2015 through August 2015 period were up 2.2% from the same period a year ago.
  • Industrial production decreased 0.4% in August after increasing 0.9% in July, according to the latest figures released by the Federal Reserve. The increase in July is now estimated to be greater than originally reported last month, largely as a result of upward revisions for mining and utilities. Manufacturing output fell 0.5% in August primarily because of a large drop in motor vehicles and parts that reversed a substantial portion of its jump in July; production elsewhere in manufacturing was unchanged.
  • Business inventories moved up 0.1% in July over June–the smallest gain since March, according to the Census Bureau report. Inventories were up 2.6% compared to July 2014. The total business inventories/sales ratio at the end of July was 1.36. The July 2014 ratio was 1.29. Softening inventories may be an indication that businesses are less optimistic about near-term growth in sales.
  • Inflationary trends took a slight step back as consumer prices fell 0.1% in August, primarily caused by a sharp decline in gasoline prices, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.1% in August, the same increase as in July. For the last 12 months ended in August, the all items index rose 0.2% before seasonal adjustment.
  • The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index of single-family homes for September (preliminary) increased a point to 62 over August’s revised index of 61. This reading continues this year’s sentiment of respondent home builders that housing market conditions are favorable with moderate to low inventories, which likely will boost demand and prices.
  • The Census Bureau’s latest report on new residential construction for August was a bit of a mixed bag. Building permits for privately owned housing units rose 3.5% above the revised July rate and 12.5% ahead of August 2014. On the other hand, housing starts (beginning of actual construction) dropped 3.0% below July’s estimate, but still 16.6% ahead of August 2014.
  • The Census Bureau’s report on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2014 reveals that 2014 produced no statistically significant change from 2013 in either real median household income or the official poverty rate. At the same time, the percentage of people without health insurance coverage declined. Median household income in the United States in 2014 was $53,657, not statistically different in real terms from the 2013 median income. This is the third consecutive year that the annual change was not statistically significant, following two consecutive annual declines.
  • For the week ended September 12, new claims for unemployment insurance dropped 11,000 from the previous week, according to the Department of Labor. The insured unemployment rate remained at 1.7% for the week ended September 5, while the advance number for continuing unemployment claims decreased 26,000 from the prior week.

Eye on the Week Ahead

The housing market, which has performed consistently so far this year, offers the latest information on new and existing home sales. The week ends with reports that focus on the economy, including the durable goods orders and the gross domestic product.

What I’m Watching This Week – 14 September 2015

The Markets (as of market close September 11, 2015)

The stock market rebounded nicely from the prior week’s sell-off with each of the major indexes listed here posting positive gains last week. The Nasdaq was the leader, increasing 2.96% ahead of the previous week’s close, followed by the S&P 500 and the Dow. Nevertheless, market uncertainty abounds, as investors anxiously await news from this week’s Federal Reserve policymakers’ meeting relative to a potential interest rate hike.

The price of gold (COMEX) dropped again, selling at about $1,107.90 by late Friday afternoon compared to $1,122.30 a week earlier. Crude oil (WTI) prices remained relatively the same, selling at $44.78/barrel by week’s end. The national average retail regular gasoline price decreased to $2.437 per gallon on September 7, 2015, $0.073 under the previous week’s price of $2.510 per gallon and $1.02 below a year ago.

Market/Index 2014 Close Prior Week As of 9/11 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 17823.07 16102.38 16433.09 2.05% -7.80%
Nasdaq 4736.05 4683.92 4822.34 2.96% 1.82%
S&P 500 2058.90 1921.22 1961.05 2.07% -4.75%
Russell 2000 1204.70 1136.17 1157.79 1.90% -3.89%
Global Dow 2501.66 2281.91 2328.19 2.03% -6.93%
Fed. Funds 0.25% 0.25% 0.25% 0% 0%
10-year Treasuries 2.17% 2.12% 2.19% 7 bps 2 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

  • Job seekers apparently had more opportunities in July as the number of job openings increased to 5.75 million compared to a revised total of 5.32 million openings in June, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is the highest level of job openings since December 2000. Professional and business services, accommodation and food services, and retail led the way. Interestingly, while the number of job openings increased, the number of actual hires edged lower to 4.98 million, down from June’s total of 5.18 million hires.
  • For the week ended September 5, new claims for unemployment insurance decreased 6,000 to 275,000 from the prior week’s revised level. The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate remained at 1.7% for the week ended August 29, with 2.26 million continuing claims.
  • The price of goods bought in the United States but produced abroad (import prices) fell 1.8% in August, while export prices–the price of goods produced domestically but sold abroad–dropped 1.4%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The August decrease was primarily driven by lower fuel prices, although falling nonfuel prices and the continued strength of the dollar contributed to the decline as well. Compared to a year earlier, import prices are down 11.4%, while export prices are off 7%.
  • The Producer Price Index, which measures the average change over time in prices received by domestic producers of goods and services, was unchanged in August, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On an unadjusted basis, the final demand index moved down 0.8% for the 12 months ended in August–the seventh straight 12-month decline. In August, a 0.4% increase in the index for services offset a 0.6% decrease in prices for goods. These figures suggest that inflation remains relatively soft.
  • Possibly sending a message to the Fed concerning a possible near-term interest rate hike, consumer sentiment dropped from 91.9 in August to 85.7 for the early part of September, according to the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment. Richard Curtin, chief economist for the Surveys of Consumers suggests, “To be sure, consumers still anticipate a weaker domestic economy due to the global slowdown and are less optimistic about future growth in jobs and wages than they were a few months ago.”
  • According to the latest monthly budget report from the Department of the Treasury, the budget deficit for August stood at $64.4 billion–down from July’s $149 billion figure. Through 11 months of the government’s fiscal year, the deficit sits at about $530 billion compared to a $589.2 billion deficit for the same 11-month period last year.

Eye on the Week Ahead

This week, inflationary trends will be examined through reports on retail sales and the Consumer Price Index. But the big news will follow the FOMC meeting and whether interest rates will be raised.

What I’m Watching This Week – 8 September 2015

The Markets (as of market close September 4, 2015)

While the stock markets gained some momentum during the last week of August, they could not maintain that positive trend for the first week of September. Each of the indices listed here lost week-on-week, with the large-cap S&P 500 dropping almost 68 points, and the Global Dow falling more than 91 points. All of these indices are now in negative territory year-to-date, led by the Dow, which lost 9.65% from the 2014 market close.

The price of gold (COMEX) dropped again, selling at about $1,122.30 by late Friday afternoon compared to $1,133.30 a week earlier. Crude oil (WTI) prices remained relatively the same, selling at $45.77/barrel by week’s end. The national average retail regular gasoline price decreased to $2.510 per gallon on August 31, 2015, $0.127 under last week’s price of $2.637 per gallon and $0.949 below a year ago.

Market/Index 2014 Close Prior Week As of 9/4 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 17823.07 16643.01 16102.38 -3.25% -9.65%
Nasdaq 4736.05 4828.32 4683.92 -2.99% -1.10%
S&P 500 2058.90 1988.87 1921.22 -3.40% -6.69%
Russell 2000 1204.70 1162.91 1136.17 -2.30% -5.69%
Global Dow 2501.66 2373.32 2281.91 -3.85% -8.78%
Fed. Funds 0.25% 0.25% 0.25% 0% 0%
10-year Treasuries 2.17% 2.18% 2.12% -6 bps -5 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

  • The nation’s trade gap closed a bit in July, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis report on international trade of goods and services. The goods and services deficit was $41.9 billion in July, down $3.3 billion from June. The narrowing of the deficit is reflective of increased exports in July ($188.5 billion, $0.8 billion more than June exports) and decreased imports ($230.4 billion, $2.5 billion less than June imports). Year-to-date, the goods and services deficit increased $10.6 billion, or 3.6%, from the same period in 2014.
  • The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Manufacturing Index is based on a monthly survey of purchasing managers at about 300 or so manufacturing firms across the United States. An index of 50 or higher signifies growth. The index for August came in at 51.1%, which evidences growth in the manufacturing sector. However, it is 1.6% lower than July, and is expanding at its slowest pace in more than two years.
  • Growth continued in the non-manufacturing sector in August, albeit at a slightly slower pace compared to July. The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index came in at 59% for August, 1.3% lower than July’s reading of 60.3%. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index decreased 1%, the New Orders Index dropped 0.4%, and the Employment Index was 3.6% lower than July, while the Prices Index declined 2.9%.
  • Construction spending has risen to its highest level in seven years, led by private construction growth in both the residential and nonresidential sectors. According to the Department of Commerce, construction spending during July 2015 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,083.4 billion, 0.7% above the revised June estimate of $1,075.9 billion. The July figure is 13.7% above the July 2014 estimate of $952.5 billion.
  • Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 173,000 in August, and the unemployment rate edged down to 5.1%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest report on the employment situation. Job gains occurred in health care and social assistance and in financial activities. Manufacturing and mining lost jobs. Over the year, the unemployment rate is down 1.0%, and the number of unemployed persons dropped to 1.5 million.
  • Also, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nonfarm business sector labor productivity increased at a 3.3% annual rate during the second quarter of 2015, as output increased 4.7%, and hours worked increased 1.4%. This is the best quarterly performance since the fourth quarter of 2013. From the second quarter of 2014 to the second quarter of 2015, productivity has increased 0.7%, reflecting increases in output and hours worked of 3.3% and 2.6%, respectively.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau reported that new orders for manufactured goods in July increased a modest $2.0 billion, or 0.4%, to $482.0 billion. This followed a 2.2% June increase. Falling energy prices and the continued strength of the dollar offset a gain in motor vehicle orders (up 4%), and durable goods orders, which increased 2.2% in July from June.
  • For the week ended August 29, new claims for unemployment insurance increased 12,000 to 282,000 from the prior week’s revised level. The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate remained at 1.7% for the week ended August 22, with 2.26 million continuing claims.

Eye on the Week Ahead

Job openings and the producer prices–two key indicators considered by the Federal Reserve in determining whether to raise interest rates–are on the docket for next week. The government’s budget deficit is expected to decrease compared to last month when the Treasury’s budget report comes out at the end of the week.

Monthly Market Review – August 2015

The Markets (as of market close August 31, 2015)

Despite favorable economic news later in the month, the U.S. stock market was unable to recover all of its losses and closed in negative territory compared to July. Key factors in the downturn include fear that China’s economy is weakening, the steep drop in the price of oil, lackluster corporate earnings reports, and the potential for an imminent interest rate hike. Each of the major market indexes listed here dropped between 6% and 7.50% for the month. The Dow, down more than 6.50%, marked its largest percentage decline since May 2010. Year-to-date, only the Nasdaq remained in positive territory–but only barely.

At the close of August, the price of gold (COMEX) was $1,134.90. Crude oil (WTI) prices remained below $50 a barrel, selling at $47.86/barrel by month’s end.

Market/Index 2014 Close Prior Month As of 8/31 Month Change YTD Change
DJIA 17823.07 17689.86 16528.03 -6.57% -7.27%
Nasdaq 4736.05 5128.28 4776.51 -6.86% 0.85%
S&P 500 2058.90 2103.84 1972.18 -6.26% -4.21%
Russell 2000 1204.70 1238.68 1159.45 -6.40% -3.76%
Global Dow 2501.66 2543.35 2354.75 -7.42% -5.87%
Fed. Funds 0.25% 0.25% 0.25% 0% 0%
10-year Treasuries 2.17% 2.18% 2.21% 3 bps 4 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.

The Month in Review

  • August saw Greece and its creditors formally agree on the terms of an 86 billion euro bailout, which may have allowed the country to remain in the eurozone. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, despite campaign promises to write off debt and ease austerity, negotiated the terms of the new deal, which ultimately included stricter austerity measures than had previously existed. With the new debt agreement formalized and his ruling party split, Tsipras resigned, paving the way for an election likely to be held sometime in September. Nevertheless, it would appear that the latest deal has eased economic tensions in Greece, at least for now.
  • August also saw China’s economy continue its dramatic slowdown, causing turmoil in stock markets around the globe. When the second-largest economy contracts, other markets feel the heat. The Chinese government has responded by cutting interest rates and lowering bank reserve requirement ratios, allowing for more money to be available to borrow for investment. It is to be determined whether these measures will increase investors’ confidence concerning China’s economic growth, which is presently predicted to be at its slowest pace in over 20 years.
  • The second quarter GDP continued to expand, increasing at an annual rate of 3.7% compared to the first quarter’s growth rate of 0.6%. The second quarter showed increased consumer spending, strong residential investment, and an uptick in exports. Also of note is the GDP’s price index, which came in at 2.1%–right at the Fed’s stated policy goal of 2.0% inflation.
  • Speaking of the Federal Open Market Committee, it did not meet in August, but provided enough discourse on a potential interest rate increase to draw significant attention. Nevertheless, the August release of the minutes of the committee’s July meeting revealed no clear consensus among committee members as to when rates should be raised.
  • August’s U.S. Treasury report for July revealed a budget deficit of $149.2 billion, attributable, in part, to a shifting of payments up to July that had previously been scheduled for August. The total budget deficit through July 2015 was $465.5 billion, or about $5.0 billion over the same ten-month period last year.
  • S. retail and food services sales advance estimates for July were $446.5 billion, an increase of 0.6% from June, and up 2.4% over July 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Total sales for the three-month period of May 2015 through July 2015 were up 2.3% compared to the same period in 2014.
  • Inflation increased in July, but only by the slightest of margins. The overall Consumer Price Index rose 0.1% in July from a month earlier, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the last 12 months, the unadjusted price index for all items increased by 0.2%. However, excluding the volatile food and energy components, the index has gained 1.8% for the 12 months ended July 2015.
  • S. producers in July received slightly higher prices for their goods and services. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Index for goods and services rose a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in July, following an increase of 0.4% in June and 0.5% in May. Even with these moderate price increases, the PPI has generally declined over the past year with overall producer prices down 0.8% compared to the 12-month period ended July 2014.
  • Despite lagging a month, the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) provides useful information on the labor market–particularly job openings, hires, and separations. The number of job openings in June fell slightly to 5.25 million from 5.56 million in May. The decrease in the number of job openings may be due, in part, to an increase in the number of new hires, which rose 0.1% to 3.7%. Over the 12 month period ended June 2015, hires totaled 60.6 million while separations totaled 57.9 million, yielding a net employment gain of 2.7 million.
  • Evidencing continuing weakness in goods exports, the U.S. trade deficit for June came in at $43.8 billion–up $2.9 billion from May’s revised total. Compared to May, exports for June dropped by $136 million, while imports increased by $2.8 billion.
  • Imports and exports prices continue to feel deflationary pressures. Import prices for goods bought in the United States, but produced abroad fell 0.9% in July, after recording no change in June. Export prices for goods sold abroad but produced domestically were down 0.2% following a 0.3% drop in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • The housing market has remained a consistently performing sector. Compared to June, sales of new homes rose 5.4%, while existing home sales were up 2.0%. In both cases, demand has thinned supply to around five months.
  • In other developments, for the week ended August 22, there were 271,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance, and 2,269,000 continuing claims for the week ended August 15, which yielded an insured unemployment rate of 1.7%. Compared to last month, the national average retail regular gasoline price dropped from $2.745 per gallon on July 27, 2015, to $2.637 per gallon on August 24–a fairly significant decrease of $0.108. Overall, consumer confidence rebounded in August, increasing to 101.5 compared to 90.9 in July, according to The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index.

Eye on the Month Ahead

China’s tumbling stock market clearly impacted U.S. stocks in August. Market recovery in September will be tied, at least in part, to whether China can boost its sagging economy. The results of the FOMC meeting in September may finally provide a firm indication of when interest rates will be increased and by how much. It appears that as the third quarter comes to a close, market volatility may continue.

What I’m Watching This Week – 1 September 2015

The Markets (as of market close August 28, 2015)

The latest stock sell-off in China sent U.S. stocks reeling at the beginning of the week. However, good economic news spurred by a favorable GDP report shifted momentum as stocks rallied to close ahead of last week. For the week, the Dow and Nasdaq were the biggest gainers. However, of the major markets listed here, only the Nasdaq remains in positive territory year-to-date.

The price of gold (COMEX) lost a bit, selling at about $1,133.30 by late Friday afternoon compared to $1,159.90 a week earlier. Crude oil (WTI) prices ended the week up, selling at $45.33/barrel by week’s end. The national average retail regular gasoline price decreased from $2.716 per gallon on August 17, 2015, to 2.637 on August 24–a drop of $0.079–$0.817 below a year ago.

Market/Index 2014 Close Prior Week As of 8/28 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 17823.07 16459.75 16643.01 1.11% -6.62%
Nasdaq 4736.05 4706.04 4828.32 2.60% 1.95%
S&P 500 2058.90 1970.89 1988.87 0.91% -3.40%
Russell 2000 1204.70 1156.79 1162.91 0.53% -3.47%
Global Dow 2501.66 2368.40 2373.32 0.21% -5.13%
Fed. Funds 0.25% 0.25% 0.25% 0% 0%
10-year Treasuries 2.17% 2.04% 2.18% 14 bps 1 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

  • Real gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 3.7% in the second quarter of 2015, according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the first quarter, real GDP increased 0.6%. The latest GDP estimate is based on more complete source data than was available for the “advance” estimate issued last month. The second quarter’s increase was driven, in part, by an upturn in business investment (spending on construction, equipment, and R&D), exports, and personal consumption.
  • Personal income enjoyed a healthy increase last month. However, consumers appeared to focus on saving rather than spending. Compared to June, personal income increased $67.1 billion, or 0.4%, and disposable personal income (DPI) increased $61.5 billion, or 0.5%, in July, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $37.4 billion, or 0.3%. It’s important to note that this data came before fears of a slowing Chinese economy, and the downturn in oil prices.
  • For the week ended August 22, new claims for unemployment insurance dropped 6,000 to 271,000. For the week ended August 15, the seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.7%, representing about 2.27 million continuing claims for unemployment insurance.
  • Consumer confidence rebounded in August from July, according to The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index. For August, the index came in at 101.5, compared to July’s 91.0. Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board said, “Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was considerably more upbeat, primarily due to a more favorable appraisal of the labor market.”
  • The housing market continues to flourish. Sales of new single-family houses in July were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 507,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 5.4% above the revised June rate of 481,000 and 25.8% above the July 2014 estimate of 403,000. The median sales price of new houses sold in July 2015 was $285,900; the average sales price was $361,600. The seasonally adjusted estimate of the number of new houses for sale at the end of July was 218,000. Demand has picked up as the supply of available new homes for sale has dropped to 5.2 months, down from 5.3 months in June, and 6.1 months at the end of July 2014.
  • The National Association of Realtors® reported that pending home sales based on contract signings for existing homes (not new construction) increased 0.5% in July compared to June. The index, at 110.9, is 7.4% above July 2014.

Eye on the Week Ahead

China has been proactive in trying to quell the economic turmoil that has impacted its own stock market and the markets of other countries, including the United States. Will the stock markets recover, or are we in for what may be a legitimate market correction? The first week of September focuses on industrial productivity, international trade, and the employment situation.