What I’m Watching This Week – 11 january 2016

The Markets (as of market close January 8, 2016)

Last week began with both domestic and global markets hitting the skids amid concerns over China’s stock market plunge, North Korea’s apparent nuclear testing, and falling oil prices. A favorable employment report at the end of the week may have helped stem the downward tide, but not nearly enough to prevent the market from registering one of its worst weeks in memory. The Dow lost over 1,000 points from last week’s December 31 close, while the S&P 500 dropped almost 6%. The Nasdaq and Russell 2000 also fell by more than 7%.

New information on China’s receding economy sent its stock market spiraling as the government closed trading twice last week. The price of oil has fallen to its lowest level since 2004, further softening energy stocks, which negatively impacted the large-cap indexes.

The price of gold (COMEX) increased, selling at $1,104.10 by late Friday afternoon, up from $1,060.50 a week earlier. Crude oil (WTI) prices also dropped, selling at $32.88 per barrel by week’s end. The national average retail regular gasoline price decreased to $2.028 per gallon on January 4, 2016, $0.006 below the previous week’s price and $0.186 under a year ago.

Market/Index 2015 Close Prior Week As of 1/8 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 17425.03 17425.03 16346.45 -6.19% -6.19%
Nasdaq 5007.41 5007.41 4643.63 -7.26% -7.26%
S&P 500 2043.94 2043.94 1922.03 -5.96% -5.96%
Russell 2000 1135.89 1135.89 1046.20 -7.90% -7.90%
Global Dow 2336.45 2336.45 2189.48 -6.29% -6.29%
Fed. Funds 0.50% 0.50% 0.50% 0 bps 0 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.26% 2.26% 2.11% -15 bps -15 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 final U.S. labor figures for 2015 revealed that the employment sector enjoyed one of its best years in the last decade as nonfarm payrolls increased by 292,000 in December, while the unemployment rate remained at 5% for the third month in a row. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, gains in the job market occurred in several industries, led by professional and business services, construction, health care, and food services and drinking places. Mining employment continued to decline. The number of unemployed persons, at 7.9 million, was essentially unchanged in December, and for the past 12 months, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons were down by 0.6 percentage point and 800,000, respectively. Adding to the favorable employment situation, revisions to October and November added more jobs for each month than previously estimated. While the average hourly earnings for all private-sector employees fell by a cent to $25.24 in December, over the past year, average hourly earnings actually rose 2.5%.
  • The manufacturing sector closed 2015 on a sour note. The Census Bureau’s latest report showed that new orders for manufactured goods in November decreased $1.1 billion, or 0.2%, from October. The news wasn’t much better for December, as the Institute for Supply Management® composite Purchasing Managers’ Index® contracted for the second consecutive month registering 48.2%, a decrease of 0.4 percentage point from November’s reading of 48.6%. And, according to the final seasonally adjusted Markit U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index™, U.S. manufacturers ended the year by recording the weakest improvement in overall business conditions since October 2012, as the index fell to 51.2 in December, down from 52.8 in November. Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit said, “The manufacturing sector saw a disappointing end to 2015, and its plight looks set to continue into the New Year as headwinds show no sign of abating any time soon.”
  • While the manufacturing sector may be showing signs of weakness, the non-manufacturing area (services, construction, mining, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting) grew in December, according to the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®, which saw its non-manufacturing index register 55.3%. Any index reading of 50% or higher indicates growth. Nevertheless, while there was continued growth in December, it moved at a slightly slower rate than the prior month, which had a higher reading of 55.9%.
  • Spending on construction, estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,122.5 billion, decreased during November 2015, according to the latest figures from the Census Bureau. Spending in November was 0.4% below the revised October estimate of $1,127.0 billion. Spending in November on private construction (-0.2%) and public construction (-1.0%) were below their respective estimates for October 2015. Nevertheless, construction spending in November 2015 was 10.5% above the November 2014 estimate of $1,016.1 billion.
  • The international trade deficit narrowed by $2.2 billion in November compared to October, according to the Census Bureau’s latest report. The goods and services deficit for November was $42.4 billion, as exports were $182.2 billion ($1.6 billion less than October) and imports were $224.6 billion ($3.8 billion less than October). Year-to-date, the goods and services deficit increased $25.2 billion, or 5.5%, from the same period in 2014. Exports decreased $99.0 billion, or 4.6%, while imports decreased $73.7 billion, or 2.8%. The continued strength of the dollar has driven up prices for foreign buyers, further curtailing exports, while slumping oil prices have contributed to declining imports. Overall, these figures point to slowing global trade.
  • For the week ended January 2, there were 277,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance, a decrease of 10,000 from the prior week’s unrevised total. For the week ended December 26, the advance number for continuing unemployment insurance claims was 2,230,000, an increase of 25,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.6% for the week ended December 26.

Eye on the Week Ahead

Several important economic indicators are highlighted this week. Of particular interest are the latest reports on job openings, producer prices, retail sales, and industrial production.