What I’m Watching This Week – 12 March 2018

The Markets (as of market close March 9, 2018)

Last week’s jobs report appears to have quelled investor fears, at least for the time being. Each of the indexes listed here posted impressive weekly gains, led by the tech-heavy Nasdaq and the small-cap Russell 2000, each of which gained over 4.0%. While the February employment figures saw over 300,000 new jobs added, meager wage growth didn’t support accelerating inflation. Last week’s rebound also pushed the major indexes ahead of their 2017 year-end values.

The price of crude oil (WTI) rose last week, closing at $62.12 per barrel early Friday evening, ahead of the prior week’s closing price of $61.45 per barrel. The price of gold (COMEX) climbed to $1,324.00 by early Friday evening, up from the prior week’s price of $1,323.70. The national average retail regular gasoline price increased to $2.560 per gallon on March 5, 2018, $0.012 greater than the prior week’s price and $0.219 higher than a year ago.

Market/Index 2017 Close Prior Week As of 3/9 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 24719.22 24538.06 25335.74 3.25% 2.49%
Nasdaq 6903.39 7257.87 7560.81 4.17% 9.52%
S&P 500 2673.61 2691.25 2786.57 3.54% 4.22%
Russell 2000 1535.51 1533.17 1597.14 4.17% 4.01%
Global Dow 3085.41 3065.64 3143.16 2.53% 1.87%
Fed. Funds target rate 1.25%-1.50% 1.25%-1.50% 1.25%-1.50% 0 bps 0 bps
10-year Treasuries 2.41% 2.86% 2.89% 3 bps 48 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 Economic Headlines

  • February saw 313,000 new jobs added, according to the latest employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Notable job gains occurred in construction (61,000), retail trade (50,000), professional and business services (50,000), and manufacturing (31,000). The unemployment rate remained at 4.1% for the fifth consecutive month. The average workweek for all employees rose by 0.1 hour to 34.5 hours in February. Average hourly earnings for all employees rose by $0.04 to $26.75, following a $0.07 gain in January. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by $0.68, or 2.6%. Overall, the number of significant new jobs added is a positive, while wages increased by only 0.1% for the month. The year-over-year gain slowed in February (2.6%) compared to January (2.9%), which was the largest gain since 2009. This should be positive news for investors who shunned the market for fear of rising inflation and interest rates.
  • The non-manufacturing (services) sector of the economy expanded in February, but at a slightly slower pace than the previous month, according to the latest report from the Institute for Supply Management. Supply managers indicated that manufacturing business activity, and new orders expanded, while employment and prices decreased last month. According to the report, the majority of respondents remain positive about business conditions and the economy.
  • A report that could bolster President Trump’s trade policy of increasing tariffs on imports, January’s goods and services trade deficit expanded sharply to $56.6 billion, up $2.7 billion from the $53.9 billion December revised deficit. In January, exports narrowed by $2.7 billion, while imports remained relatively the same, down less than $0.1 billion from December’s imports. Year-over-year, the goods and services deficit increased $7.9 billion, or 16.2%, from January 2017. Exports increased $9.7 billion, or 5.1%. Imports increased $17.6 billion, or 7.4%.
  • In the week ended March 3, there were 231,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance, an increase of 21,000 from the previous week’s level. The advance insured unemployment rate dipped to 1.3% for the week ended February 24. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended February 24 was 1,870,000, a decrease of 64,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised up by 3,000.

Eye on the Week Ahead

Fears of rising inflation and interest rates have worried investors over the past several weeks. Important inflationary indicators are out this week with the Consumer Price Index, Producer Price Index, and retail sales report. While consumer spending has been modest, prices for consumer goods and services have been rising in a sure sign of inflationary pressures.

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