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.

Why Do We Care About Vehicle Sales Weekly Update – November 10, 2014

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Danilo Rizzuti

Image courtesy of
FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Danilo Rizzuti

Investors doubled down on the market rally, sending the Dow and S&P 500 to new highs after Friday’s October employment situation report showed that the unemployment rate dropped again.1 For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.69%, the Dow leapt 1.05%, and the Nasdaq added 0.05%.2

The October jobs report buoyed hopes about the labor market by showing that job growth increased at a steady rate last month, adding 214,000 new jobs to the economy. The unemployment rate fell to a fresh six-year low, edging down to 5.8%. In terms of overall gains, the labor market has added over 200,000 new jobs a month for the last nine, the longest span of such gains since 1995.3

However, many Americans are still feeling anxious about the economic recovery and their prospects. Exit polls from Tuesday’s elections showed that nearly 60% of voters felt that the economy was stuck in neutral or even going in reverse.4 Why? Some economists (including Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen) point to stagnant wage growth.5

Taking a look at the chart below, we see that while hiring has increased since the bottom of the recession, real compensation (adjusted for inflation) has remained fairly flat. While the economy is undoubtedly doing better, many Americans haven’t seen those gains reflected in their paychecks or career prospects.

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Most of the job gains in October came from the retail and food service sectors, which are not the well-paying jobs that we want to see.6 Much of that can be attributed to a pre-holiday staffing surge from restaurants and retailers who expect a solid holiday shopping season.

Are good jobs coming back? Yes, albeit slowly. One economist estimates that 34% of jobs gained in the third quarter of 2014 were in mid-paying industries as compared with just 21% a year ago. On the other end of the spectrum, low-paying jobs made up 39% of new jobs, as compared to 66% last year.7

October’s auto sales report also came out last week and showed investors a couple of important things: Auto sales are booming, up significantly since last year; average sale price is also up, gaining nearly 3% since October 2013; even better, price gains are outstripping incentives, meaning that car makers are able to offer fewer incentives to buyers, which is great news for firm profit margins.8 Why do we care about vehicle sales? We can treat big-ticket sales like autos as a broad proxy for overall consumer spending; generally speaking, when Americans feel well off enough to buy a new car, they are probably spending well in other areas.

Next week’s calendar is light on economic data and earnings season is largely over. With markets at new historical highs, it’ll take some pretty good news to keep buying pressure up. With a slow week ahead, it wouldn’t be surprising for investors to want to take some profits off the table and wait for more economic indicators. Analysts will be looking for Friday’s retail sales report to contextualize the surge in retail hiring. If strong shopping trends support the job growth, it may show that retailers are on track for a solid holiday season. If not, investors may worry that retailers will be hurt by high costs.

On this Veteran’s Day, let’s take a moment to honor those who serve. For your courage, hard work, and dedication to our country, we thank you. We also remember all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for liberty – you will never be forgotten. Let’s also take a moment for our military families who have supported their loved ones from far away.

 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Thursday: Jobless Claims, JOLTS, EIA Petroleum Status Report, Treasury Budget

Friday: Retail Sales, Import and Export Prices, Consumer Sentiment, Business Inventories

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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.

Oil price slump could affect shale oil industry. While plummeting oil prices puts money in consumers’ wallets, it could also undermine the production of domestic shale oil, which is only economically feasible with oil prices above $80/barrel.9

Factory goods orders slide in September. New orders for U.S. factory goods fell for the second month in a row in September, underscoring worries about global growth. On the other hand, unfilled orders rose, indicating that October could be a better month.10

Trade deficit widens in September. The difference between U.S. imports and exports increased as exports fell, highlighting concerns that slow global growth and a strong dollar could undermine U.S. trade.11

Construction spending falls in September. Construction outlays fell unexpectedly as private construction fell to its lowest level since October 2013. While construction numbers can be volatile, slower building could indicate a lack of business confidence in the economy.12