The Dow’s New Record – Weekly Update for January 30, 2017

After a brief pause during inauguration week, stocks continued to climb last week. The S&P 500 added 1.03%, the NASDAQ was up 1.90%, and the MSCI EAFE increased by 1.29%. The Dow also grew, adding 1.34%, ending the week above while hitting 20,000 for the first time ever.

Consumer confidence matched this positive performance, as the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment measurement beat expectations in January and reached the highest levels since 2004. However, one piece of data we received last week gave a less rosy view of the economy: initial gross domestic product (GDP) reports.

What Happened: GDP Missed Projections

On Friday, we received the first report on real GDP for the fourth quarter of 2016. Growth declined significantly to come in at 1.9%—down from the third quarter’s reading of 3.5%.

Looking Deeper

Many aspects of our economy showed solid growth in the fourth quarter. Household purchases grew, business-equipment spending advanced for the first time in over a year, and inventory accumulation increased. Net exports, however, pulled growth down by 1.7%—the biggest drag since 2010—as we saw a jump in imports coupled with a decline in exports. Working to increase U.S. exports is important because it can help strengthen America’s economy, support additional jobs, and promote sustainable growth.

Without net exports pulling down economic expansion, fourth-quarter GDP could have been even higher than in the third quarter. Trade is integral to our economy, and changes in the balance between imports and exports measurably effect growth. The new administration’s potential plans to tax Mexican imports, change trade relationships with China, and restrict visitors from certain countries could affect our imports and exports—and thus our economy.

Between lagging GDP and the Dow reaching historic levels, this week showed us a range of perspectives on where the economy now stands. The markets will always have uncertainty and unanswered questions, and—as always—we must stay focused on the fundamentals that drive performance in the long term. For now, we will continue monitoring policy developments and the trade deficit to determine how they may impact economic growth in 2017 and beyond. We will also pay close attention to the economic data upon which we build our strategies for pursuing your goals.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Personal Income and Outlays

Tuesday: Consumer Confidence

Wednesday: ADP Employment Report, ISM Manufacturing Index, FOMC Meeting Announcement

Thursday: Productivity and Costs

Friday: Employment Situation, Factory Orders, ISM Non-Manufacturing Index

December Earnings & a Presidential Week – Weekly Update for January 17, 2017

2017-01-09 Blog ImageAs we look back on markets last week, we see mixed results with none of the major domestic indexes gaining or losing more than 1%. The S&P 500 was down 0.10% for the week, and the Dow gave back 0.39%, yet again failing to reach 20,000. On the other hand, the NASDAQ increased by 0.96% and reached its sixth record close in 2017 on Friday—pushed by a 1.36% rally for Facebook after Raymond James upgraded its stock. International stocks in the MSCI EAFE added 0.82%.

What We Saw Last Week

Big banks reported earnings. Earnings season is upon us. On Friday, we saw JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and PNC Financial beat profit expectations. These positive results add some weight to the post-election financials rally, where financial-sector equities in the S&P 500 have added 17% since the election. A number of other banks will report this week, and we will look to see if their performance also matches the growth we have seen so far.

Retail sales grew. The December monthly retail sales report showed a 0.6% increase, slightly below the 0.7% consensus expectations. With this growth, retail sales are now up 4.1% in the past year. However, not all retailers are performing well. General merchandise stores are suffering as consumers continue to shop online and move away from in-person retail stores. We see the results of this trend in declining retails sales numbers and large companies announcing store closures, including Macy’s, Sears, CVS, and many more.

Consumer sentiment was high but divided. The University of Michigan’s monthly report on consumer sentiment was 98.1, just below predictions but still near highs we have not seen since 2004. One interesting finding in the report is a strong partisan divide in consumer confidence. Richard Curtin, director of the consumer survey, described “extreme differences” between people’s expectations for whether new political policies would help or hurt the economy. He reminded people that the most impact on consumer sentiment will come from “actual changes in the economy” as a result of Trump’s work, which we will have to wait a few months to see.

What We’re Looking at in the Week Ahead

Earnings season continues. The markets will be watching earnings closely during this four-day trading week—specifically to see if other major financial institutions also beat expectations. Some analysts believe that to keep the current market rally going and demonstrate that there is weight behind the post-election growth, we’ll need to see excellent reports from most companies.

A number of high-profile companies report this week, including:

  • Morgan Stanley
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Citigroup
  • American Express
  • Netflix
  • IBM
  • UnitedHealth Group
  • General Electric Co.

Donald Trump becomes President. While earnings reports will be important to track, another event looms larger in many people’s minds: Donald Trump’s inauguration. After he takes the oath of office Friday morning and becomes President of the United States, we will begin to see how the market’s expectations for Trump’s policies match reality.

From trade to taxes to infrastructure and beyond, the next few months will give us a number of insights into how U.S. policies may change. Uncertainty remains, and we will watch for political developments that may affect the markets. In addition, we will continue to focus on the fundamentals that provide deep insight into how the economy is performing—and how we can strive to keep you on track toward your goals.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: U.S. Markets Closed in Observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Wednesday: Consumer Price Index, Industrial Production, Housing Market Index
Thursday: Housing Starts

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Quarter End Questions – Weekly Update for October 3, 2016

2016-10-3-blog-imageThe presidential debate, surging oil prices, and concerns about a global bank all took their toll on the market last week; however, we were pleased to see a positive quarter end for stocks. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.17%, the Dow grew 0.26%, the NASDAQ edged up 0.12%, but the MSCI EAFE lost 0.87%.

Why did Deutsche Bank affect markets?

Last week, concerns about one of the world’s largest banks caused investors to worry that a new “Lehman moment” might spark a new financial crisis. Germany’s scandal-prone banking giant is facing financial penalties in the U.S. for the role it played in the financial crisis; the bank’s problems are causing key clients to distance themselves and analysts wonder about the firm’s financial health. Investors reacted to Deutsche Bank’s woes negatively, setting off a 200-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Thursday.

A similar loss of confidence in Lehman Brothers in 2008 caused counterparties (major clients) to ask the cash-strapped firm for their money back, triggering its collapse and the beginning of the financial crisis. However, Deutsche Bank is not Lehman, and the world is a different place than it was in late 2008. International financial institutions are not as dangerously interconnected as they were then, and global regulators are much better positioned to respond to situations that arise.

Markets agreed with that assessment and rebounded on Friday. While news from Deutsche Bank may still create headlines, we think the worst has passed. If you have any questions about Deutsche Bank or other financial firms, please reach out to us so we can respond to your concerns.

What does the data say about the economy in the third quarter?

With the third quarter officially in the rearview mirror, analysts are turning their attention to the data. Here’s what we know so far:

The third estimate of second-quarter economic growth showed that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew a stronger-than-expected 1.4%, up from initial estimates. Even better, some economists think the economy could have accelerated and grown 2.8% in the third quarter, which would put it closer to the pace we want to see. The latest September data on consumer sentiment, an important indicator of future consumer spending, shows that Americans are more confident in their financial prospects, possibly opening the door to higher spending in the critical holiday shopping season.

What might the final months of the year bring?

As we enter the final three months of 2016, markets are contending with some headwinds we’re watching. We can expect plenty of headlines around the presidential election as we get closer to November. Political beliefs aside, elections represent a lot of uncertainty, especially with wild-card candidates. Markets may react with relief after election uncertainty resolves; however, concerns about the changes a new administration will bring may also trigger further volatility.

Britain’s prime minister announced her intention to begin negotiating the UK’s Brexit from the European Union next spring. By 2019, Britain could be a sovereign nation once again, bringing a slew of changes to the EU. Ultimately, we don’t expect to see too much volatility around the Brexit until next year.

Oil prices might have finally hit bottom and be poised to rally this fall. Major oil producers, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, seem ready to coordinate production to bring oil prices back up. If a pact is made (and held), oil could head back toward $60/barrel next year, which would bring relief to beleaguered U.S. energy companies. However, higher oil process could bite consumers by making gas more expensive at the pump. It’s likely that oil prices will play a role in market movements in the weeks to come.

The week ahead is packed with data, including the September jobs report, which may factor into future Federal Reserve interest rate decisions. As always, we’ll keep you updated.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Motor Vehicle Sales, PMI Manufacturing Index, ISM Manufacturing Index, Construction Spending

Wednesday: ADP Employment Report, International Trade, Factory Orders, ISM Non-Manufacturing Index, EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday: Jobless Claims

Friday: Employment Situation

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HEADLINES:

New home sales tumble in August. Sales of newly constructed homes fell 7.6% in August after surging in July to the highest level in nearly nine years. The retreat isn’t unexpected and further volatility in the housing sector may occur.

Durable goods orders slip. U.S. factories saw fewer orders in August for long-lasting goods like aircraft, appliances, and electronics. However, a core category that represents business investment grew for the third straight month.

Weekly jobless claims edge higher. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week but held at stable levels, supporting the view that the labor market continues to improve.

Pending home sales drop. The number of homes under contract slumped in August, suggesting that home sales fell across the board. Since pending sales forecast future activity, it’s likely the drop in housing activity will be felt in the weeks ahead.

Markets Fired Up Weekly Update – August 11, 2014

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/jscreationzs

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/jscreationzs

Markets regained steam and ended the first full week of August on a strong note. Solid jobs data and hopes that Russia may be de-escalating the Ukrainian conflict contributed to the gains. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.33%, the Dow grew 0.37%, and the Nasdaq added 0.42%.1

The labor market continues to gain ground and weekly unemployment claims tumbled. The four-week moving average, a less-volatile measure of unemployment, fell to the lowest level since 2006. Even better, measures of long-term unemployment are also improving as steady hiring improves conditions for jobseekers.2

Global security worries continued to dog investors when President Obama announced strikes in Iraq against Islamic State militants. While it’s too soon to know whether U.S. intervention will escalate or reduce tensions, markets reacted nervously to fears that the U.S. may be dragged back into Iraq. On the other hand, Russia announced an end to military operations on the Ukrainian border, giving us hope that Russia may be interested in turning down the heat on the conflict.3 Overall, the geopolitical situation hasn’t changed drastically, and we can expect continued volatility as markets weigh risks.

The bulk of earnings season is behind us, and we’re comfortable saying that Q2 was very positive for businesses. Growth rates are up, companies are beating their estimates, and demand is coming back. As of Friday morning, total earnings for the 453 S&P 500 companies that reported in are up 8.7% from second quarter 2013 on revenue growth of 4.6%.4

Forward guidance about the third quarter is also cautiously optimistic, with some firms talking up their business outlook. While low guidance is still the norm – firms prefer to set a low bar and then try to exceed it – the number of firms reducing their earnings guidance is down from last year. All told, it sounds like business leaders are feeling much better about their chances.5

Looking ahead at this week, investors will be looking carefully at retail sales and consumer sentiment data to gauge how strong economic activity is likely to be in the third quarter. The back-to-school season is upon us and will be a major test for retailers battling low store traffic and bargain-hunting shoppers. The back-to-school season is second only to the holiday shopping season in importance and is also a key indicator of consumer spending.6

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

 

Tuesday: Treasury Budget

Wednesday: Retail Sales, Business Inventories, EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday: Jobless Claims, Import and Export Prices

Friday: PPI-FD, Empire State Mfg. Survey, Treasury International Capital, Industrial Production, Consumer Sentiment

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HEADLINES:

U.S. trade deficit narrows on oil production boom. The gap between imports and exports narrowed as increased domestic oil production has reduced America’s reliance on foreign oil imports. These better-than-expected numbers could lead to a higher estimate of Q2 Gross Domestic Product.7

U.S. services sector is booming. The pace of economic activity in the services sector – comprising businesses like restaurants, retailers, entertainment, and financial firms – grew at a rapid rate in July. Growth blew past economists’ expectations and reached its highest level in over eight years.8

Mortgage volume still low. Mortgage applications are still sliding, as fewer Americans refinance or buy new houses. Refinances are down 39% and purchase applications are down 14% from a year ago.9

ECB says EU economy threatened by Ukraine. The European Central Bank continued to keep interest rates artificially low, citing the economic threat from Ukrainian instability and economic sanctions against Russia. ECB leadership verbally committed to additional quantitative easing measures if the EU’s recovery weakens further.10