What I’m Watching This Week – 24 February 2020

The Markets (as of market close February 21, 2020)

The run of positive weekly market gains ended last week as each of the benchmark indexes listed here lost value. The spread of the coronavirus from China to other countries has investors worried about the impact on global economies. Tech stocks were hit hard as the Nasdaq dropped 1.59%, followed by the Dow, which lost close to 1.40%. The large-cap S&P 500 fell 1.25%, followed by the Global Dow and the small caps of the Russell 2000. Money seemed to flow from stocks to long-term bonds and gold, pushing prices higher. The 10-year Treasuries saw yields fall 11 basis points (prices and yields move in opposite directions) while the price of gold jumped almost 4.00% over the prior week’s closing price.

Oil prices rose higher last week, closing at $53.35 per barrel by late Friday afternoon, up from the prior week’s price of $52.09. The price of gold (COMEX) soared last week, closing at $1,646.10 by late Friday afternoon, up from the prior week’s price of $1,587.20. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.428 per gallon on February 17, 2020, $0.009 higher than the prior week’s price and $0.111 more than a year ago.

Market/Index 2019 Close Prior Week As of 2/21 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 28,538.44 29,398.08 28,992.41 -1.38% 1.59%
Nasdaq 8,972.60 9,731.18 9,576.59 -1.59% 6.73%
S&P 500 3,230.78 3,380.16 3,337.75 -1.25% 3.31%
Russell 2000 1,668.47 1,687.58 1,678.61 -0.53% 0.61%
Global Dow 3,251.24 3,276.89 3,238.97 -1.16% -0.38%
Fed. Funds target rate 1.50%-1.75% 1.50%-1.75% 1.50%-1.75% 0 bps 0 bps
10-year Treasuries 1.91% 1.58% 1.47% -11 bps -44 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 News

  • The first quarter of the year should be a good one in the new home market, according to the latest information on housing starts. Building permits jumped 9.2% in January and are up 17.9% above the January 2019 rate. Building permits issued for single-family homes rose 6.4% in January. Housing starts fell 3.6% in January but are 21.4% above the January 2019 rate. Housing completions also dropped 3.3% last month and single-family housing completions in January fell 3.5%.
  • Following a strong December, sales of existing homes fell 1.3% in January. However, year-over-year, existing home sales are up 9.6%. Single-family existing home sales dropped 1.2% in January from December’s total. The median existing-home price in January was $266,300 ($274,500 in December), up 6.8% from January 2019 ($249,400). The median existing single-family home price was $268,600 in January 2020 ($276,900 in December), up 6.9% from January 2019. Total inventory rose 2.2% in January from the prior month.
  • Prices for producers advanced 0.5% in January after climbing 0.2% in December. Producer prices are up 2.1% for the 12 months ended in January, the largest advance since moving up 2.1% for the 12 months ended May 2019. In January, 90.0% of the increase in the Producer Price Index is attributable to prices for final demand services, which climbed 0.7%. The index for final demand goods inched up 0.1%. Producer prices less foods, energy, and trade services advanced 0.4% in January, the largest increase since a 0.4% rise in April 2019. For the 12 months ended in January, the index for final demand less foods, energy, and trade services moved up 1.5%.
  • For the week ended February 15, there were 210,000 claims for unemployment insurance, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised up by 1,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims remained at 1.2% for the week ended February 8. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended February 8 was 1,726,000, an increase of 25,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised up by 3,000.

Eye on the Week Ahead

A busy week is ahead for important economic and market-moving reports. January’s figures on new home sales are available early in the week. December saw sales of new, single-family homes dip below November’s totals. Also out this week are reports on durable goods orders and the gross domestic product. December’s new orders for durable goods rebounded following a poor November. The fourth-quarter GDP increased 2.1%, according to the advance estimate. January’s figures will be based on more economic data, but are expected to reveal a comparable growth rate for the economy during the last quarter of 2019.

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What I’m Watching This Week – 18 February 2020

The Markets (as of market close February 14, 2020)
Despite the ongoing battle against the coronavirus, stocks reached record highs last week. Solid economic data, strong retail sales, and favorable corporate earnings reports helped quell investors’ fears that the spread of the dreaded coronavirus would impact global economies. Each of the benchmark indexes listed here posted weekly gains, led by the Nasdaq, which advanced 2.21%, followed by an almost 2.0% bump in the small caps of the Russell 2000. Both large-cap indexes climbed higher, with the S&P 500 gaining 1.58% and the Dow pushing just past 1.0%.

Oil prices inched higher last week, closing at $52.09 per barrel by late Friday afternoon, up slightly from the prior week’s price of $50.47. The price of gold (COMEX) recovered last week, closing at $1,587.20 by late Friday afternoon, up from the prior week’s price of $1,573.90. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.419 per gallon on February 10, 2020, $0.036 lower than the prior week’s price but $0.143 more than a year ago.

Market/Index
2019 Close
Prior Week
As of 2/14
Weekly Change
YTD Change
DJIA
28,538.44
29,102.51
29,398.08
1.02%
3.01%
Nasdaq
8,972.60
9,520.51
9,731.18
2.21%
8.45%
S&P 500
3,230.78
3,327.71
3,380.16
1.58%
4.62%
Russell 2000
1,668.47
1,656.78
1,687.58
1.86%
1.15%
Global Dow
3,251.24
3,252.04
3,276.89
0.76%
0.79%
Fed. Funds target rate
1.50%-1.75%
1.50%-1.75%
1.50%-1.75%
0 bps
0 bps
10-year Treasuries
1.91%
1.57%
1.58%
1 bps
-33 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 News

  • Consumer prices inched up 0.1% in January following a 0.2% bump in December. Falling energy prices pulled the Consumer Price Index down. Over the last 12 months, the CPI has increased 2.5% — the largest 12-month increase since the period ending October 2018. The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.2% in January after increasing 0.1% in December.
  • Retail sales jumped 0.3% in January after inching ahead 0.1% the prior month. Retail sales climbed 4.4% since January 2019. Nonstore (online) retail sales jumped 0.3% in January and are 8.4% over January 2019.
  • Import prices were unchanged in January following a 0.2% increase in both December and November. Falling fuel prices offset increasing prices for nonfuel imports. Export prices advanced 0.7% last month after falling 0.2% in December. This is the largest monthly advance since the index increased 0.7% in March. For 2019, import prices increased 0.3% while export prices rose 0.5%.
  • Industrial production declined 0.3% in January, as unseasonably warm weather held down the output of utilities, and a major manufacturer significantly slowed production of civilian aircraft. Industrial production was 0.8% lower in January than it was a year earlier. The index for manufacturing edged down 0.1% in January; excluding the production of aircraft and parts, factory output advanced 0.3%. The index for mining rose 1.2%.
  • The number of job openings fell to 6.4 million (-364,000) on the last business day of December, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover report. Over 2019, the job openings level declined by 14.9%. The number of hires was little changed at 5.9 million in December. The hires rate was little changed at 3.9%. Total separations includes quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. Total separations is referred to as turnover. In December, the number of total separations was little changed at 5.7 million and the rate was little changed at 3.8%. Over the 12 months ended in December, hires totaled 70.0 million and separations totaled 67.8 million, yielding a net employment gain of 2.2 million.
  • The government budget deficit was $32.6 billion in January — $41.3 billion higher than the budget surplus from the prior January. Year-to-date the deficit sits at $389.2 billion, 25.0% above the deficit over the same period last year. Through the first four months of the fiscal year, government expenditures are up 10.3% over expenditures during the same period last fiscal year, while government receipts are down 6.1%.
  • For the week ended February 8, there were 205,000 claims for unemployment insurance, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised up by 1,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims remained at 1.2% for the week ended February 1. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended February 1 was 1,698,000, a decrease of 61,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised up by 8,000.

Eye on the Week Ahead

The residential sector is front and center this week with January’s figures on new home construction and existing home sales. Producer prices for January are also available this week. December saw producer prices inch up 0.1%. In 2019, prices at the producer level moved up 1.3%.

What I’m Watching This Week – 10 February 2020

The Markets (as of market close February 7, 2020)

Stocks rebounded and long-term bond yields rose last week amid reports of China’s plans to cut tariffs on some American imports. The S&P 500, Dow, and Nasdaq reached all-time highs during the week, and global stocks soared. Also helping push stocks higher was a round of favorable fourth-quarter corporate earnings figures and a strong labor report. Investors seemed intent on locking in gains by last week’s end as stocks fell somewhat. Nevertheless, each of the benchmark indexes listed here posted solid gains, led by the Nasdaq, which gained more than 4.0%. The large caps of both the Dow and S&P 500 advanced by 3.0% and 3.17%, respectively. The small caps of the Russell 2000, which had been reeling for the past several weeks, climbed 2.65%. Year-to-date, the Nasdaq is more than 6.0% ahead of its 2019 closing value. Only the Russell 2000 is slightly behind last year’s mark.

Oil prices dropped again last week, closing at $50.47 per barrel by late Friday afternoon, down from the prior week’s price of $51.61. The price of gold (COMEX) plunged last week, closing at $1,573.90 by late Friday afternoon, down from the prior week’s price of $1,592.70. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.455 per gallon on February 1, 2020, $0.051 lower than the prior week’s price but $0.201 more than a year ago.

Market/Index 2019 Close Prior Week As of 2/7 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 28538.44 28256.03 29102.51 3.00% 1.98%
Nasdaq 8972.60 9150.94 9520.51 4.04% 6.11%
S&P 500 3230.78 3225.52 3327.71 3.17% 3.00%
Russell 2000 1668.47 1614.06 1656.78 2.65% -0.70%
Global Dow 3251.24 3161.86 3252.04 2.85% 0.02%
Fed. Funds target rate 1.50%-1.75% 1.50%-1.75% 1.50%-1.75% 0 bps 0 bps
10-year Treasuries 1.91% 1.52% 1.57% 5 bps -34 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 News

  • Job growth soared in January with the addition of 225,000 new jobs. The average monthly gain of new jobs added in 2019 was 175,000. Notable job gains last month occurred in construction, health care, and transportation and warehousing. The unemployment rate inched up 0.1 percentage point to 3.6%, representing 5.9 million unemployed persons (5.8 million unemployed in December). The labor force participation rate edged up by 0.2 percentage point to 63.4%. The employment-population ratio, at 61.2%, changed little over the month but was up by 0.5 percentage point over the year. In January, average hourly earnings rose by $0.07 to $28.44. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.1%. The average workweek was unchanged at 34.3 hours in January.
  • January has gotten off to a slow start in the manufacturing sector, at least according to one purchasing managers’ survey. The latest IHS Markit U.S. Manufacturing PMI™ fell in January on the heels of a drop in export orders. At the same time, the pace of growth for new orders was the softest in three months, prompting firms to exercise greater hesitancy in relation to hiring additional staff, with workforce numbers rising only slightly and at the slowest pace in four months.
  • It is not uncommon for the leading manufacturing surveys to post conflicting results, as was the case in January. According to the Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®, purchasing managers were more upbeat relative to the manufacturing sector in January, evidenced by a 3.1 percentage point increase in the purchasing managers’ index. Survey respondents also reported an increase in new orders, production, hiring, new export orders, and prices — not entirely in line with the survey results from Markit’s report.
  • The services sector continued to expand in January, according to the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®. Survey respondents reported growth in business activity and new orders. On the other hand, hirings and prices each fell in January compared to December.
  • The goods and services deficit was $48.9 billion in December, up $5.2 billion (11.9%) from $43.7 billion in November, revised. Exports ($209.6 billion) were up 0.8%, and imports ($258.5 billion) increased 2.7%. For 2019, the goods and services deficit decreased $10.9 billion, or 1.7%, from 2018. Exports decreased $1.5 billion, or 0.1%. Imports decreased $12.5 billion, or 0.4%. Reflective of the trade war, the United States deficit with China in 2019 decreased $73.9 billion to $345.6 billion.
  • For the week ended February 1, there were 202,000 claims for unemployment insurance, a decrease of 15,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised up by 1,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims remained at 1.2% for the week ended January 25. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended January 25 was 1,751,000, an increase of 48,000 from the prior week’s level.

Eye on the Week Ahead

The latest inflationary indicators are available this week, including January’s Consumer Price Index. The retail sales report will provide last month’s figures on consumer spending at retail and food services stores. The Federal Reserve releases its report on the government’s budget for January. The December government budget deficit was $13.3 billion.

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Monthly Market Review – January 2020

The Markets (as of market close January 31, 2020)

January was full of ups and downs as investors rode a wave of uncertainty. The month began with many of the benchmark indexes listed here losing value (except for the Nasdaq) only to surge ahead during the middle of the month. However, fears that a widespread outbreak of the coronavirus would impact global economic growth pushed investors away from stocks, which lost significant value by the end of the month.

By the close of trading on the last day of January, only the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained value, as each of the remaining benchmark indexes listed here fell, led by the small caps of the Russell 2000, which plummeted by more than 3.25%. The Global Dow dropped 2.75%, followed by the Dow and the S&P 500. Unfortunately, the momentum enjoyed in December didn’t carry over to January for stock investors.

By the close of trading on January 31, the price of crude oil (WTI) was $51.61 per barrel, well below the December 31 price of $61.21 per barrel. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.506 per gallon on January 27, down from the December 30 selling price of $2.571 but $0.250 more than a year ago. The price of gold rose by the end of January, climbing to $1,592.70 by close of business on the 31st, up from its $1,520.00 price at the end of December.

Market/Index 2019 Close Prior Month As of January 31 Month Change YTD Change
DJIA 28538.44 28538.44 28256.03 -0.99% -0.99%
Nasdaq 8972.60 8972.60 9150.94 1.99% 1.99%
S&P 500 3230.78 3230.78 3225.52 -0.16% -0.16%
Russell 2000 1668.47 1668.47 1614.06 -3.26% -3.26%
Global Dow 3251.24 3251.24 3161.86 -2.75% -2.75%
Fed. Funds 1.50%-1.75% 1.50%-1.75% 1.50%-1.75% 0 bps 0 bps
10-year Treasuries 1.91% 1.91% 1.52% -39 bps -39 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.

Latest Economic Reports

  • Employment: December saw 145,000 new jobs added, with notable job gains occurring in retail trade and health care. In 2019, employment rose by 2.1 million, down from a gain of 2.7 million in 2018. The unemployment rate remained at 3.5% for the month and the number of unemployed persons stood at 5.8 million. A year earlier, the unemployment rate was 3.9% with 6.3 million unemployed. In December, average hourly earnings for all employees rose by $0.03 to $28.32. Average hourly earnings increased by 2.9% in 2019. The average workweek was unchanged at 34.3 hours in December. The labor participation rate for December remained at 63.2% (63.0% last December), while the employment-population ratio closed 2019 at 61.0% for the fourth consecutive month (60.6% in December 2018).
  • FOMC/interest rates: Following its latest meeting in January, the Federal Open Market Committee decided to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 1.50%-1.75%. The rate hasn’t changed since it was decreased last October. While the Committee noted positive economic growth, increased consumer spending, and a strong labor market, fixed business investment, and exports remain weak, and inflation continues to run below the Fed’s 2.0% target. The Committee meets again in March.
  • GDP/budget: According to the advance estimate for the fourth-quarter gross domestic product, the economy accelerated at an annualized rate of 2.1%. This is the same rate of growth as in the third quarter. Consumer spending grew at a rate of 1.8% (3.2% in the third quarter), fixed investment inched up 0.1% in the fourth quarter (-0.8% in the third quarter), and although nonresidential fixed investment fell 1.5% in the fourth quarter, it was an improvement over the 2.3% drop in the prior quarter. Consumer prices advanced at a rate of 1.6% in the fourth quarter, comparable to the third quarter (1.5%). Disposable personal income increased 3.1% in the fourth quarter, compared with an increase of 4.5% in the third quarter. December, the third month of the government’s fiscal year, saw the federal budget deficit hit $13.3 billion ($13.5 billion in December 2019). Through the first quarter of the 2020 fiscal year, the deficit sits at $356.6 billion, 11.8% greater than the deficit over the same period last fiscal year. Government spending over the first three months of the fiscal year outpaced receipts 6.7% to 4.6%. Comparing the first quarter of FY 2020 to the first three months of FY 2019, defense spending is up 9.2%, Medicare expenditures increased 8.0%, and Social Security payments rose 5.8%. Receipts over the same period saw individual income taxes climb 3.2%, employment, and general retirement receipts rise 5.9%, and corporate taxes jumped 23.2%, while receipts from customs duties, impacted by the tariffs on Chinese goods, vaulted 18.6%.
  • Inflation/consumer spending: According to the Personal Income and Outlays report, inflationary pressures remain weak, as prices for consumer goods and services rose 0.3% in December after inching up 0.1% in November. Prices are up 1.6% over the last 12 months. Consumer prices excluding food and energy rose 0.2% in December (0.1% in November) and are up 1.6% year-over-year. Personal income and disposable (after-tax) personal income each advanced 0.2% in December. Consumers continued to spend, as personal consumption expenditures increased 0.3% in December after expanding 0.4% the previous month.
  • The Consumer Price Index inched ahead 0.2% in December following a 0.3% increase in November. For 2019, the CPI has risen 2.3%. Increases in shelter and energy were major factors in the CPI increase. Energy prices increased 1.4% in December (3.4% for the year), and medical care commodities increased 1.5% for December and 2.5% for 2019. The CPI less food and energy inched up 0.1% for the month and 2.3% for 2019.
  • Prices producers receive for goods and services edged up 0.1% in December (no change in November, revised). The index increased 1.3% in 2019 after a 2.6% advance in 2018. Producer prices less foods, energy, and trade services rose 0.1% in December following no change in November. For 2019, prices less foods, energy, and trade services moved up 1.5% after advancing 2.8% in 2018. A 1.5% increase in energy prices pushed goods prices up 0.3% in December, and gasoline prices jumped 3.7%.
  • Housing: The housing sector has been anything but consistent this year. After falling 1.7% in November, existing home sales rose 3.6% in December and are up 10.8% over last December. Year-over-year, sales of existing homes were at the same pace as in 2018. The median sales price for existing homes was $274,500 in December, compared to $271,300 in November. Existing home prices were up 7.8% from December 2018. Total housing inventory at the end of December sat at 1.40 million units (representing a 3.0-month supply), down from November’s 3.7-month supply. Sales of new single-family homes fell in December, down 0.4% from November’s totals. However, sales are 23.0% above the December 2018 estimate. There were about 10.3% more homes sold in 2019 compared to the previous year. The median sales price of new houses sold in December was $331,400 ($330,800 in November). The average sales price was $384,500 ($388,200 in November). Available inventory, at a 5.7-month supply, was slightly higher than November’s 5.4-month supply.
  • Manufacturing: After rebounding in November, industrial production declined 0.3% in December, driven by a 5.6% decrease in utilities. The drop for utilities resulted from a large decrease in demand for heating, as unseasonably warm weather in December followed an unseasonably cold November. Manufacturing output advanced 0.2% in December, despite a 4.6% decrease in manufacturing of motor vehicles and parts. Utilities increased 1.3% in December. Total industrial production was 1.0% lower in December than it was a year earlier. Following a November decrease, new orders for durable goods rose 2.4% in December. However, excluding transportation, new orders fell 0.1%. Transportation equipment, up following three consecutive monthly decreases, drove the increase, climbing $5.9 billion, or 7.6%. New orders for capital goods (used by businesses to produce consumer goods) dropped 6.5% in December following a 7.8% tumble in November.
  • Imports and exports: Import prices rose 0.3% in December after ticking up 0.1% the prior month. The gain in import prices was the largest monthly advance since the index increased 0.6% in March. Prices for imports rose 0.5% in 2019, after decreasing 0.9% in 2018. The 12-month advance in December for import prices was the largest over-the-year increase since the index rose 0.7% between November 2017 and November 2018. Export prices fell 0.2% in December following a 0.2% increase in November. Prices for exports declined 0.7% in 2019 following a 1.1% increase in 2018. The 2019 drop was the first calendar-year fall in export prices since the index declined 6.6% in 2015. The international trade in goods deficit was $68.3 billion in December, up $5.3 billion from $63.0 billion in November. Exports of goods for December rose 0.3% to $137.0 billion, $0.4 billion more than November exports. Imports of goods for December climbed 2.9% to $205.3 billion, $5.8 billion more than November imports. The latest information on international trade in goods and services, out January 7, is for November and shows that the goods and services deficit was $43.1 billion, down $3.9 billion from the $46.9 billion deficit in October. The narrowing deficit resulted from a 0.7% rise in exports to $208.6 billion and a 1.0% drop in imports to $251.7 billion. October exports were $0.4 billion less than September exports. October imports were $4.3 billion under September imports. Year-to-date, the goods, and services deficit decreased $3.9 billion, or 0.7%, from the same period in 2018.
  • International markets: Four major international banks refrained from lowering interest rates in a move aimed at bolstering their respective economies. The Bank of England, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, and the Bank of Canada each maintained their respective monetary policies last month. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the United States gave notice that it was ready to address trade relations with the European Union. President Trump threatened to impose significant tariffs on European cars if a more favorable trade agreement between the United States and European Union could not be reached. Ongoing trade uncertainties have impacted Japan, which has seen its exports decline for thirteen consecutive months.
  • Consumer confidence: The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® increased in January following a moderate increase in December. The Present Situation Index — based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions — increased last month, as did the Expectations Index, which is based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business, and labor market conditions.

Eye on the Month Ahead

Aside from the impeachment trial, investors will be watching the employment figures for January and news from the industrial sector. Job growth slowed a bit toward the end of 2019, although numbers remained relatively strong. Manufacturing and industrial production were generally weak for most of last year, impacted by the trade war between the United States and China. It will be interesting to see if the first phase of an agreement between the world’s largest economies is enough to help the manufacturing sector.

What I’m Watching This Week – 3 February 2020

The Markets (as of market close January 31, 2020)

Investors continue to be rattled by the growing concern over the spread of the coronavirus, pulling money from stocks for the second week in a row. Each of the benchmark indexes listed here fell, led by the small caps of the Russell 2000, which lost close to 3.0% for the week. The Dow closed the week down more than 600 points while the S&P 500 dropped by more than 2.0%. The Global Dow also gave back almost 3.0% in value by last week’s end. Only the Nasdaq lost less than 2.0% — but not by much, closing the week down by 1.76%. As stock values plummeted, long-term bond prices soared, pushing yields significantly lower.

Oil prices dropped again last week, closing at $51.61 per barrel by late Friday afternoon, down from the prior week’s price of $54.21. The price of gold (COMEX) surged higher last week, closing at $1,592.70 by late Friday afternoon, up from the prior week’s price of $1,570.70. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.506 per gallon on January 27, 2020, $0.031 lower than the prior week’s price but $0.250 more than a year ago.

Market/Index 2019 Close Prior Week As of 1/31 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 28538.44 28989.73 28256.03 -2.53% -0.99%
Nasdaq 8972.60 9314.91 9150.94 -1.76% 1.99%
S&P 500 3230.78 3295.47 3225.52 -2.12% -0.16%
Russell 2000 1668.47 1662.23 1614.06 -2.90% -3.26%
Global Dow 3251.24 3254.21 3161.86 -2.84% -2.75%
Fed. Funds target rate 1.50%-1.75% 1.50%-1.75% 1.50%-1.75% 0 bps 0 bps
10-year Treasuries 1.91% 1.68% 1.52% -16 bps -39 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 News

  • The initial, or advance, estimate of the gross domestic product showed the economy grew at an annual rate of 2.1% — the same as in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, a downturn in imports, an acceleration in government spending, and a smaller decrease in nonresidential (business fixed) investment were offset by a larger decrease in private inventory investment and a slowdown in consumer spending. The price index for gross domestic purchases increased 1.5% in the fourth quarter, compared with an increase of 1.4% in the third quarter. The personal consumption expenditures price index increased 1.6%, compared with an increase of 1.5% in the third quarter. Excluding food and energy prices, the personal consumption expenditures price index increased 1.3%, compared with an increase of 2.1% in the prior quarter. Personal consumption expenditures (consumer spending) rose by 1.8% in the fourth quarter, compared with a 3.2% jump in the third quarter.
  • Following its meeting last week, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 1.50%-1.75%. In support of its decision, the Committee noted that the labor market remains strong and that economic activity has been rising at a moderate rate. Although consumer spending has been rising at a moderate pace, business fixed investment and exports remain weak, and inflation continues to run below the Fed’s 2.0% target rate. The FOMC does not meet again until mid-March.
  • Consumers saw their personal income (pre- and post-tax) grow by 0.2% in December (0.4% in November). Consumer spending increased by 0.3% in December (0.4% in November) while prices for consumer goods and services advanced by 0.3% (0.1% in November). Excluding food and energy, consumer prices increased 0.2%. For the year, consumer prices advanced 1.6%, well below the Fed’s 2.0% target for inflation.
  • While sales of existing homes enjoyed robust gains in December, new home sales didn’t fare quite so well. Sales of new single-family homes dropped 0.4% in December from the prior month. Nevertheless, new home sales finished 2019 23% above the December 2018 totals. The median sales price of new homes sold in December was $331,400. The average sales price was $384,500. Inventory in December was at a 5.7-month supply (5.5 months in November).
  • At first blush, December looked like a strong month for long-lasting, durable goods as new orders increased by 2.4% following a 3.1% slide in November. However, a closer look reveals that most of the gain was driven by a surge in defense aircraft. Excluding transportation, new orders for durable goods actually fell 0.1% in December. New orders for nondefense capital goods decreased 6.5% last month while core capital goods (excluding defense and aircraft) dropped 0.9%. Shipments of manufactured durable goods, down six consecutive months, decreased 0.2% in December. Not surprisingly, unfilled orders (-0.1%) fell while inventories (+0.5%) increased for the seventeenth of the last eighteen months.
  • The international trade in goods deficit was $68.3 billion in December, up $5.3 billion from $63.0 billion in November. Exports of goods for December were $137.0 billion, $0.4 billion more than November exports. Imports of goods for December were $205.3 billion, $5.8 billion more than November imports. The trade in goods deficit this past December was $11.5 billion under the deficit in December 2018 ($79.8 billion).
  • For the week ended January 25, there were 216,000 claims for unemployment insurance, a decrease of 7,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised up by 12,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims remained at 1.2% for the week ended January 18. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended January 18 was 1,703,000, a decrease of 44,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised up by 16,000.

Eye on the Week Ahead

Industrial production and labor data headline this week’s economic reports. Purchasing managers’ surveys on the state of manufacturing for January are out at the beginning of the week. Industrial production in general, and manufacturing specifically, have been relatively weak for quite some time. On the other hand, employment has been strong. December saw 145,000 new jobs added, although wage growth for 2019 was less than 3.0%.

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