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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Stocks Drop on Retail Earnings Woes – Weekly Update for May 16, 2016

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/sixninepixels

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/sixninepixels

Stocks fell again for the third week in a row, driven lower by poor earnings reports from some major department store retailers. For the week, the S&P 500 lost 0.51%, the Dow fell 1.16%, the NASDAQ dropped 0.39%, and the MSCI EAFE lost 0.46%.

Despite a growing economy and strong labor market, Americans didn’t shop as much as retailers expected last quarter, leaving some puzzled over the disconnect. Many retail giants posted dismal earning results for the first quarter. Among the problems: same-store sale declines, falling traffic, and an inability to predict apparel trends. Even industry insiders aren’t sure what’s going on, and some say that the retail doldrums are bringing back memories of the last recession. However, economists may have some answers.

Though consumers are doing much better than they did in the immediate post-recession recovery, some worry lingers, causing people to save more instead of spending. As the cost of housing and healthcare has increased, many Americans also don’t have as much discretionary money to spend.

The good news is that Americans are still spending—just not the same way they did in the past. An increasing number—particularly Millennials—prefer to spend what they have on things like services, dining out, and concerts. Americans are shifting to online spending, which hurts brick-and-mortar retailers that rely on foot traffic. While Commerce data shows that overall retail sales grew 3.0% since last April, the category that includes online retailers and shopping apps grew 10.2%.

More current data also paints a more reassuring picture. The most recent report by the Commerce Department shows that monthly retail sales increased 1.3% in April, much higher than the 0.8% increase Wall Street expected. So-called core spending, a retail sales control category that economists use to estimate underlying consumer spending, grew 0.9%, causing economists to raise their forecasts for second-quarter economic growth.

The chart below shows the most current unofficial forecast of Q2 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) maintained by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. You can see that the forecast has been revised upward over the last two weeks as new data is released.

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So, does the fact that retailers had a bad quarter indicate we’re in a recession? Not really. Americans are spending money; they’re just changing where and how they spend, and the retail industry needs to adapt to those changing preferences.

Looking ahead, we have some housing and manufacturing data coming out this week as well as minutes from the last Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting. While analysts aren’t expecting major revelations from the meeting notes, they’re hoping for more guidance on when to expect another interest rate increase. While an April survey of economists showed that 75.0% expected a June rate hike, the May survey shows that expectations have split, with 31.4% forecasting a June increase and 31.4% targeting a September increase.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Empire State Mfg. Survey, Housing Market Index, Treasury International Capital

Tuesday: Consumer Price Index, Housing Starts, Industrial Production

Wednesday: EIA Petroleum Status Report, FOMC Minutes

Thursday: Jobless Claims, Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey

Friday: Existing Home Sales

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HEADLINES:

Jobless claims jump to highest level since February 2015. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment surged unexpectedly, touching off concerns about a labor market slowdown. However, claims remained below the key 300,000 threshold, suggesting that the jump may be seasonal.

Job openings near record highs. There were over 5.5 million job openings in March, indicating that employers are keen to hire. The rate of people voluntarily quitting their jobs remained stable at 2.1%, showing workers are still confident of finding new jobs.

U.S. business inventories rise. U.S. businesses increased their stockpiles by the biggest amount since last June, indicating they expect a good summer.

Consumer sentiment rises more than expected. A measure of consumer optimism about the economy jumped far more than expected, indicating that Americans are feeling more upbeat about their prospects despite some uncertainty around the November elections.

A Slow Week Ends in New Highs Weekly Update – November 17, 2014

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Idea go

Image courtesy of
FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Idea go

Markets ended a sluggish week of trading slightly up, notching another record close for the S&P 500. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.39%, the Dow grew 0.35%, and the Nasdaq added 1.21%.1

Though last week’s data was sparse, several important economic reports show that investors may have something to be excited about. The latest retail sales data shows that shoppers came out in droves in October, giving sales a 0.3% boost. The rise in sales is even stronger than it appears, because lower gas station sales (caused by falling gas prices) depressed retail sales growth. Excluding volatile categories like automobiles, food, gasoline, and building materials, retail sales surged 0.5%.2

Much of the increase can be attributed to lower gas prices – in freefall since July – giving consumers more discretionary income to spend. Gas now averages $2.91 across the nation;3 if per-gallon prices stay low, we could see a very healthy holiday shopping season.

In another sign of a solid retail season, Wal-Mart (WMT), America’s biggest retailer, beat earnings estimates. Same-store sales, often considered a better indicator of organic growth, rose 0.5%, indicating that shoppers are coming back. Many of Wal-Mart’s customers are low-income Americans; positive earnings results could show that many of these consumers are no longer feeling the economic pinch.4

Americans are also generally feeling much better about their prospects. Consumer sentiment rose in November to more than a seven-year high. Falling unemployment and lower gas prices boosted confidence, though many Americans are still worried about income gains.5

The week ahead is heavy with economic data on manufacturing, housing, and inflation, which could cause some volatility as investors digest reports. Analysts are also already thinking about Black Friday and the official start of the year’s biggest shopping season. With October’s better-than-expected retail sales data, low gas prices, and optimistic consumers, some are forecasting a great season for U.S. retailers. Are these tailwinds baked into stock prices yet? We’ll see.

 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

 

Monday: Empire State Mfg. Survey, Industrial Production

Tuesday: PPI-FD, Housing Market Index, Treasury International Capital

Wednesday: Housing Starts, EIA Petroleum Status Report, FOMC Minutes

Thursday: Consumer Price Index, Jobless Claims, PMI Manufacturing Index Flash, Philadelphia Fed Survey, Existing Home Sales

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HEADLINES:

Notes: All index returns exclude reinvested dividends, and the 5-year and 10-year returns are annualized. Sources: Yahoo! Finance and Treasury.gov. International performance is represented by the MSCI EAFE Index. Corporate bond performance is represented by the DJCBP. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.

Great news: Americans are quitting their jobs. The latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey shows that workers are quitting their jobs at the fastest rate since 2008. This trend is another indicator of labor market strength because workers tend to quit jobs when they feel confident in finding better work.6

Business inventories rise 0.3% in September. Though sales remained weak, U.S. businesses added to their inventory stockpiles at a faster rate than in August. The modest rise indicates that businesses are optimistic about their ability to sell through inventory in the coming months.7

Eurozone growth rates edges upward. The latest economic figures from Europe show that the overall Eurozone grew 0.2% in the third quarter. While Germany and France (Europe’s biggest economies) posted anemic growth, Greece roared back from recession, posting 0.7% growth.8

Strong dollar and weak oil are helping Americans buy from abroad. While American companies worry about the effect a strong dollar will have on their foreign sales, Americans are benefiting from cheap oil and the strength of the currency to buy overseas goods. September import prices fell by the most in two years, led by a large drop in the cost of imported fuels.9