How Rising Interest Rates Can Inspire Your Portfolio – Weekly Update for March 20, 2017

For the fifth time in six weeks, domestic stock indexes ended last week in positive territory. The S&P 500 gained 0.24%, the NASDAQ added 0.67%, and the Dow eked out a 0.06% increase. International equities in the MSCI EAFE grew by a sizable 1.99%.

Over the week, we received a series of economic updates that gave a mostly positive view of the economy’s progression, including the following data for February:

In addition, the most recent data indicated that fewer people filed for unemployment benefits the week of March 11. We have now experienced 106 straight weeks of unemployment claims staying below 300,000 people, which is a healthy labor market indicator.

Given this information—and the wealth of economic data released recently—the markets expected the Federal Reserve’s March 15 decision to raise benchmark interest rates. Last week’s 0.25% increase is only the third jump since the Great Recession, and the pace of hikes is quickening. The Fed has now raised rates in December 2015, December 2016, and March 2017 and expects at least two more increases this year.

Like with all economic data, understanding the context is critical. While interest rates are on the rise, they are still low, as you can see in the chart below.

How will rising rates affect your financial life?

When the Fed raises rates, they are demonstrating a belief in the economy’s strength. As with all changes to monetary policy, the outcomes can be complex and interconnected. While no one can predict the future, here are a few places where interest rates may affect your finances:

  1. Stocks

Stocks rose following the Fed’s announcement, with the S&P 500 gaining 0.84% on Wednesday. A strong economy is good for stocks; but anticipating exactly what lies ahead is impossible because so many outside forces impact equities. Right now, however, the markets are performing well and responding positively to increasing rates.

  1. Bonds

Generally speaking, as interest rates rise, bond yields go up and their prices go down—with long-term bonds suffering the most. However, those are not hard-and-fast rules for how to move forward. Your specific needs and strategies will determine the best way to move forward with bonds in a rising interest rate environment.

  1. Revolving Debt

If you have revolving debt—credit cards, home equity line of credit, etc.—and your interest rates are variable, you will likely see a difference in your payments very soon. In fact, a 0.25% increase like we experienced last week may cost consumers an additional $1.6 billion in credit-card finance charges in 2017 alone.

  1. Cash

When revolving debt interest rates go up, banks may quickly adjust the interest rates they charge, but they often wait to increase the interest rates they pay. Right now, the average savings account pays 0.11% interest, but some institutions offer rates up to 1.25%. Finding opportunities to capture a larger return on your cash is possible.

If you have questions about why the Fed is raising rates and how their choices may affect your life, we are always here to talk. Our goal is to give you the insight you need to feel informed and in control of your financial future.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR
Wednesday: Existing Home Sales
Thursday: New Home Sales
Friday: Durable Goods Orders

Bull Market’s 8th Anniversary – Weekly Update for March 13, 2017

After at least four consecutive weeks of growth, the three major domestic indexes all lost ground this week. The S&P 500 was down 0.44%, the Dow lost 0.49%, and the NASDAQ declined 0.15%. Meanwhile, international stocks in the MSCI EAFE grew by 0.38%.

This week, the Fed meets to determine whether or not to raise benchmark interest rates for the first time in 2017. Right now, the market gives a 93% chance of a rate hike.

In this update, rather than analyzing what lies ahead or what happened last week, we would like to acknowledge just how far the U.S. economy has come since 2009.

On March 9, we marked the 8-year anniversary of when markets during the Great Recession hit the bottom on their lowest day. At that point in the economic meltdown, the Dow and S&P 500 had both lost more than 50% of their value since October 2007. Every investor likely remembers the fear that gripped the U.S. and global economies, as questions lingered of how low we could go.

Today, we can see just how far the markets and economy have come since March 2009—and the growth investors could have missed if they avoided the markets. Take, for instance, the S&P 500.

On March 9, 2009, the index fell to 676.53. Eight years later it rebounded to 2364.87.  With reinvested dividends, that growth represents an average annual increase of 19.45%. And the fundamental data tells a very similar story.

Four Economic Measures: From March 2009 to Today

  1. Gross Domestic Product
  • March 2009: We learned the economy had fallen by a 6.3% annual rate during the fourth quarter of 2008—its largest decline in 26 years.
  • Today: GDP recovery has been more plodding than many people might prefer, but nonetheless, nearly every quarter has shown growth since 2009. And over the past two years, GDP has increased at a 3.2% annual rate.
  1. Home Prices
  1. Unemployment
  1. Total Employment

Throughout this economic recovery, people have seemed concerned the bull market was about to end. When discussing the bottom of the market 5 years ago, in the March 12, 2012 Weekly Update, we wrote about many analysts’ worries that a pullback was imminent. Even last year, one MarketWatch columnist wrote an article titled “Happy Birthday Bull Market—Now Write Your Will,” warning that the markets would not reach new peaks in the near future. The S&P 500 has gained around 19% in the months since then.

Of course, no one can predict exactly when this bull market will begin to decline. And at 8 years old, only one recovery has lasted longer since World War II.

As always, we will continue to offer the advice we believe suits your best interests in every market environment: Focus on your long-term goals and personal needs, not headlines and emotions. We have come a long way in 8 years, and we will continue to guide you through the market’s changing times and inevitable fluctuations. If you have questions about where you stand today or how to prepare for tomorrow, we are here to talk.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Tuesday: FOMC Meeting Begins
Wednesday: Consumer Price Index, Retail Sales, Housing Market Index, FOMC Meeting Announcement
Thursday: Housing Starts
Friday: Consumer Sentiment

March 2017 Market Update Video

Since February was a record-breaking month for the economy, Josh and I decided we wanted to try to break a record of our own. Watch our video to find out how we did!

Also in this month’s video, we’ll discuss some of the major headlines that influenced markets in February — and provide insight into what these developments could mean for you as an investor.

If you have any questions about your portfolio after viewing this video, please give us a call at 419-425-2400, or send us an email. We would love to talk with you.

January Jobs Jump – Weekly Update for February 6, 2017

Political headlines continued to fill the news last week, and while domestic markets declined during mid-week trading, they rebounded on Friday, February 3. Overall, the week showed only modest movement, as the S&P 500 added 0.12%, the NASDAQ was up 0.11% to end at a record high, and the MSCI EAFE grew by 0.01%. The Dow was down by 0.11% but still managed to end above 20,000 after dipping below this benchmark between Tuesday and Thursday.

So, why did domestic markets perform well on Friday? A better-than-expected jobs report.

The January Jobs Report

Depending on which survey you look at, economic experts predicted the economy would add an average of between 175,000 and 180,000 jobs in January. Instead, on Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report showed the economy added 227,000 jobs last month—far higher than predicted. This increase means job growth has continued for 76 months in a row.

You gain a much clearer picture, however, when you look beyond the big headlines and see what other data tells us. Here’s a quick rundown of what we found:

Hourly Earnings Increased, but by a Very Small Margin

Average hourly earnings grew by only 3 cents in January—and showed a 2.5% increase over last year. This monthly growth is less than a third of what we saw in December 2016. However, one industry in particular may have caused these slower gains, as a 1% decrease in financial industry earnings depressed overall wage growth.

Unemployment Increased, but for a Potentially Positive Reason

When you hear that unemployment increased from 4.7% in December to 4.8% in January, this may sound like bad news. However, a major reason for this increase is that labor force participation grew by 0.2% in January, the first increase in months. In other words, after sitting on the sidelines, more people are now rejoining the labor force and creating additional opportunities for economic growth.

Jobs Are Available, but Workers May Need Training or Relocation

While labor force participation increased last month, its 62.9% rate is still near the lowest level in decades. According to Glassdoor Chief Economist Andrew Chamberlain, approximately 5.5 million jobs remain open in the U.S.—close to a record number. Some of these jobs, such as retail and food service, don’t require much training, but they aren’t always located near where unemployed workers live. Other jobs in the hot fields of healthcare and technology require training and skills that many workers simply do not have right now. As a result, closing the gap between open jobs and willing workers is a complex challenge for employers and job-searchers alike.

The Bottom Line

The labor market is continuing to improve, but the pace remains slower than what most people would prefer. Nonetheless, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest revisions show that private-sector payrolls have increased for 83 straight months, the longest growth streak since the 1920s.

How any potential new pro-growth policies affect the labor market remains to be seen, as does how to fill the millions of open jobs available right now. In the meantime, people are working more hours for higher pay than they were this time last year, and job participation is growing.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:
Monday: Labor Market Conditions Index
Tuesday: International Trade
Wednesday: EIA Petroleum Status Report
Friday: Import and Export Prices, Consumer Sentiment

 

New Year, New Market Highs – Weekly Update for January 9, 2017

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The first trading week of 2017 is over, and during this time, all three major domestic indexes hit record highs. The DOW reached 19,999.63 in intra-day trading on Friday, January 6 —just 0.37 away from achieving 20,000 for the first time. On the same day, the S&P 500 and NASDAQ both closed at record highs. For the week, the S&P 500 was up 1.70%, the Dow gained 1.02%, and the NASDAQ added 2.56%. International stocks in the MSCI EAFE increased by 1.77%.

To say that 2017 has started differently than 2016 would be an understatement. This time last year, we ended the week with all three indexes dropping at least 5.96% on fears about China’s economy.

What else happened last week?

In addition to record highs in the markets, we received a number of economic reports, which provided a mix of positive and less-than-ideal data.

Jobs Grew, But Missed Projection: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that U.S. employers added an estimated 156,000 non-farm jobs in December. This number missed economists’ projections of 178,000 new jobs but also marked the 75th straight month of job growth.

Unemployment Increased: The percentage of individuals actively seeking jobs in the U.S. increased by 0.1% in December, meeting expectations that it would reach 4.7%.

Wages Grew: One bright spot in this week’s labor report was a 0.4% increase in average hourly earnings. After sluggish growth through much of the economic recovery, wages increased by 2.9% in 2016.

Trade Deficit Increased: In November, U.S. exports declined as our imports grew, pushing the trade deficit to a nine-month high. The inflation-adjusted trade deficit is now $3.2 billion bigger than a year ago, an increase that could deflate Gross Domestic Product for the fourth quarter of 2016.

Manufacturing Hit Two-Year High: For the fourth consecutive month, the ISM manufacturing index showed growth in the manufacturing industry. December’s reading of 54.7 beat expectations.

Services Sector Beat Expectations: The ISM non-manufacturing index, which surveys economic data from executives in 60 service sectors, grew for the 83rd straight month. December’s measure of 57.2 matched November’s reading and beat economists’ predictions of a drop to 56.6.

Overall, beginning a new year with record highs in the markets is encouraging for all of us as investors. Many of the fundamentals seem to point to an economy that is picking up speed—but only time will tell how our new presidential administration’s policies will affect us in the future.

We hope to see continued growth and stability, and no matter what lies ahead, we will be here to guide you toward the goals and priorities that matter most to you.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Labor Market Conditions Index, Consumer Credit

Tuesday: JOLTS

Thursday: Import and Export Prices

Friday: PPI-FD, Retail Sales, Consumer Sentiment

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Stay the Course: Choosing Confidence in an Uncertain Market – Weekly Update for November 7, 2016

2016-11-07-blog-pictureWe’re in the middle of an interesting moment for the markets, where short-term volatility and uncertainty might lead you to believe that the economy is faltering. After all, the major stock indexes lost ground last week, with the S&P 500 losing 1.94%, the Dow dropping 1.50%, the NASDAQ dipping 2.77%, and the MSCI EAFE declining 1.59%. On top of these losses, the S&P 500 posted its longest losing streak since 1980.

Of course, we never like to see the markets go down. However, we believe that when you look beneath the surface, the economy is still doing far better than what this week’s performance implies. Behind the losses and ongoing election exhaustion, we see a number of strong indicators that the economy is growing. This week, we learned that the trade deficit shrank, the service sector grew for the 81st consecutive month, and manufacturing continued its steady growth.

On Friday, November 4, we also got to see new data on jobs and payrolls — the last significant economic report before Election Day.

What did the jobs report show us?

  • Unemployment Rate Dropped

The unemployment rate hit 4.9%—only 0.1% above the Federal Reserve’s target unemployment rate.

  • Economy Added 161,000 Jobs

While this job creation rate was below economists’ predictions, we don’t think it is cause for concern. The growth was matched by revised August and September reports that added another 44,000 jobs.

  • Hourly Earnings Increased

Earnings increased by 0.4%, pushing them 2.8% higher than this time last year. We haven’t seen an earnings increase this large since 2009.

  • People Left Their Jobs at Higher Rates

Last month showed the highest number of people who voluntarily left their jobs since 2007. This statistic matters because it can show that people are more confident they’ll be able to find new jobs.

Our Takeaway

For years, this plow horse economy has been adding new jobs at a slow and steady pace. Now that we’ve almost reached the benchmark unemployment rate, people are finally starting to see their wages increase and new opportunities arise. Typically, better jobs mean more disposable income, which equals increased consumer spending—and economic growth.

The rest of 2016 might not be a smooth ride, as the election and potential interest rate increase remain on investors’ minds. We hope you find comfort knowing that beneath this short-term volatility, we see growing economic strength.

 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Gallup U.S. Consumer Spending Measure, Consumer Credit

Tuesday: U.S. Presidential Election

Wednesday: Wholesale Trade, EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday: Treasury Budget

Friday: Banks Closed but Markets Open, Consumer Sentiment

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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.

Current Events Cause Rates to Remain – Weekly Update for September 26, 2016

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Stocks rallied again last week after the Federal Reserve voted not to raise interest rates this month. While few expected the Fed to act last week, official statements suggest the path to higher rates looks clearer. For the week, the the S&P 500 gained 1.19%, the Dow grew 0.76%, the NASDAQ added 1.17%, and the MSCI EAFE stayed stable.

Let’s dig more deeply into the Fed’s recent statements. The Fed cited continued strength in the labor market, economic growth, and better wage growth in its case for higher interest rates. However, tepid inflation (largely due to lower energy prices) and a desire to get the timing right caused most of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to vote to hold rates steady.

Three members of the FOMC dissented from the majority vote, believing that the Fed should have raised interest rates this month. One dissident, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, believes that the labor market could overheat in 2017, potentially derailing the economic recovery if action isn’t taken.

An overheating labor market could send wages to unsustainably high levels while productivity (output per worker per hour) falls. While higher wages might sound pretty good to American workers, unsustainable labor market trends could lead to the sharp recessionary contraction economists want to avoid. However, the health of the labor market doesn’t boil down to a single measure of unemployment, and the rest of the committee seems to believe that raising interest rates too soon is riskier than potentially raising them too late.

The market appears to agree, and investors see the Fed reinforcing the idea that the economy still has room to grow. At least one Wall Street analyst believes we’re in the “sixth or seventh inning of a nine inning game.” Despite the Fed’s increasingly hawkish tone about raising interest rates, Wall Street isn’t fully convinced the central bank will pull the trigger in December. Though the FOMC will meet again in November, the Fed is unlikely to make a move until after the election. The latest estimate of trading interest shows that traders view the odds of higher rates in December at 54.2%.

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The Fed has worked hard to convince the public that it intends to raise rates soon. Why? One of the tools the central bank can use to affect markets is that of its “bully pulpit,” the leverage of its powerful position. In the past, the Fed has used the bully pulpit to sound the warning about irrational market highs and give Americans plenty of notice about future policy moves. The Fed hopes that telegraphing plays will give markets time to digest the news and avoid a shock.

This week, Monday’s presidential debate and a key meeting of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members could lead to more market volatility. Oil prices have been a major driver of market movements this year and movement toward freezing production (thereby reducing the supply glut that is contributing to low prices) would cause volatility. How likely is a coordinated production freeze? Not very likely since it would require historic cooperation between geopolitical opponents such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. We’ll keep you informed.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: New Home Sales, Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey

Tuesday: S&P Case-Shiller HPI, Consumer Confidence

Wednesday: Durable Goods Orders, EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday: GDP, International Trade in Goods, Jobless Claims, Pending Home Sales Index

Friday: Personal Income and Outlays, Chicago PMI, Consumer Sentiment

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HEADLINES:

Housing starts fall more than expected. Groundbreaking on new houses fell 5.8% in August as building activity declined broadly after increasing this summer. However, a rebound in permits for new houses suggests housing demand may strengthen.

Existing home sales fall for second straight month. Home resales fell in August, dinged by a shortage of housing inventory on the market. Growth in home prices is outpacing wage growth, weighing on sales activity.

Weekly jobless claims fall. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 8,000 to a two-month low last week. Continued labor market growth could give the Fed the green light to raise interest rates in December.

Manufacturing gauge drops to three-month low. A measure of manufacturing activity slipped in September as weakness in new orders and a strong dollar weighed on demand. New orders rose at the slowest rate this year and hiring was slow.

Interest Rate Uncertainty after August Jobs Report – Weekly Update for September 6, 2016

blog-09-06-16After losing steam the previous week, stocks rose last week as investors cheered a weak jobs report and the declining probability of a September interest rate increase by the Federal Reserve. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.50%, the Dow grew 0.52%, the NASDAQ added 0.59%, and the MSCI EAFE grew 0.44%.

The August job report showed that the economy gained 151,000 new jobs instead of the 180,000 jobs predicted by economists. Since investors are keenly watching the odds of a rate hike ahead of the mid-September Federal Open Market Committee meeting, they treated the jobs miss as a win since it might reduce the chance of a rate hike this month.

However, investors might be cheering too early since there’s still the possibility the Fed might act. The August employment report is notoriously unreliable due to the effects of seasonal labor, which often peaks in the summer. Since 2011, August job gains have undershot estimates by about 49,000 and have been revised upward by an average of 71,000 jobs over the following months.

If enough Fed economists see the August numbers as a seasonal aberration, they may use June/July numbers to determine that the economy is strong enough to weather another rate hike. However, despite Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s hawkish tone, some experts don’t believe the Fed will act until December at the earliest.

There is also the November election to consider; historically, the Fed tends to choose the more cautious path when facing a close call. One expert pegs the odds of a September hike at 55% and a December hike at 80%. Overall, Wall Street traders are less confident of a September hike, assigning just a one-in-four chance of a rate increase.

Digging deeper into the August numbers, we see that the headline unemployment rate remained at 4.9%, and a broader measure of unemployment, which also includes discouraged and underemployed workers, also remained unchanged at 9.7%. Wage growth also slowed; hourly wages rose just three cents, increasing just 2.4% over the previous 12 months.

Though overall wage gains are slow, different sectors show different stories. Employees in high-demand tech jobs saw their wages go up 4.3% over a year go. Even restaurant and hotel employees are experiencing year-over-year wage gains of 3.9%.

Our View

All told, the August jobs report paints a mixed picture of the economy. New jobs are still being created at a respectable clip and represent a strong tailwind in the third quarter. However, the pace of jobs growth may be waning, which is a concern. Furthermore, the pace of wage growth is also slow and may represent a divide between the workers who are fully experiencing the benefits of an economy close to full employment, and those who are being left behind.

As attention focuses on the Fed’s September meeting, we expect to see further volatility. However, the fact that the Fed is seriously contemplating a rate hike this fall suggests policymakers believe in the underlying strength of the economy. That’s great news.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: U.S. markets closed for Labor Day Holiday

Tuesday: ISM Non-Manufacturing Index

Wednesday: JOLTS, Beige Book

Thursday: Jobless Claims, EIA Petroleum Status Report

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HEADLINES:

Consumer confidence surges. A measure of how confident Americans feel about the economy rose to its highest level in nearly a year, suggesting that consumer spending may support growth this quarter.

Auto sales remain brisk. Sales of U.S. cars and trucks were still healthy in August, but lagging activity at Ford and GM made analysts worry that total volume is declining from its blistering 2015 pace.

Factory orders up in July. Orders to U.S. manufacturers rose to the highest level in nine months in July. However, much of the increase was due to volatile orders for aircraft, indicating the surge may be temporary.

Mortgage applications up 2.8%. Overall mortgage applications were up last week as interest rates remained stable. However, refinancing activity should be higher given rates near record lows.

Stocks Bounce After Jobs Blowout – Weekly Update for August 8, 2016

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Stocks bounced last week, ending sharply higher after a better-than-expected jobs report. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.43%, the Dow rose 0.60%, the NASDAQ added 1.14%, but the MSCI EAFE lost 1.41%.

Among last week’s major events was a shockingly good July jobs report. Last month, the economy added 255,000 new jobs, blowing away expectations of 180,000 jobs. Even better, the gains were broad-based and the labor force participation rate (an area of concern because fewer people in our population were actively participating in the labor force) ticked upward. Overall, not too shabby.

Headline unemployment remained stable at 4.9%, but that single number hides a lot of complexity. We’d like to dig a little deeper. The chart below shows six different measures of unemployment, each slicing the data in a different way.

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The U-6 unemployment rate is the most comprehensive, showing total unemployed, marginally attached workers (discouraged workers and those considered barely employed), and those total employed part time for economic reasons.

You can see that all measures rose during the recession and have been steadily dropping ever since. While headline unemployment (U-3 unemployment in official parlance) stands at 4.9%, U-6 is still at 9.7%, almost two percentage points higher than the pre-recession low of 7.9% achieved in 2006. This indicates that there are many people who haven’t participated fully in the labor market recovery; however, the rate has fallen significantly from the 17.1% high it reached in 2009. All told, most areas of the labor market are still making gains.

Britain’s central bank moved to lower interest rates to fight the Brexit blues. The Bank of England cut interest rates for the first time in nearly seven years and announced an aggressive round of bond purchases to stimulate economic activity. The bank is moving quickly to head off a possible economic blowback from Britain’s vote to exit the European Union.

Will the Federal Reserve raise rates while one of our major trading partners is going the other way? We’ll be sure to keep you updated.

 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Tuesday: Productivity and Costs
Wednesday: JOLTS, EIA Petroleum Status Report, Treasury Budget
Thursday: Jobless Claims, Import and Export Prices
Friday: Retail Sales, PPI-FD, Business Inventories, Consumer Sentiment

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HEADLINES:

Motor vehicle sales miss expectations. July sales of cars and trucks by major U.S. automakers slipped as pent-up demand slackened.

Consumer spending increases more than expected. Spending by American consumers rose more than expected in June, suggesting consumption remained strong throughout the second quarter.

Factory orders fall. New orders for manufactured goods fell in June for the second month in a row, though stabilizing business spending offers some hope.

Construction spending falls to one-year low. Spending on construction projects fell in June, suggesting a downward revision to second-quarter economic growth may come.