MAY 2, 2016

INCOME OUTDISTANCES SPENDING Personal income rose 0.4% in March, yet the Commerce Department reported personal spending up just 0.1%. That mild uptick contributed to a poor first quarter for GDP; last week, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated Q1 growth at 0.5%.1 CONSUMER OPTIMISM declineS The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index dipped 1.9 points in […]

APRIL 25, 2016

HOME SALES REBOUND Bouncing back from a drop of 7.3% in February, existing home sales improved 5.1% last month. In its March report, the National Association of Realtors announced a median sale price of $222,700, 5.7% higher than a year ago.1,2 BUILDERS BREAK GROUND ON FEWER PROJECTS While home sales increased last month, the pace […]

APRIL 18, 2016

HOW WEAK WAS FIRST-QUARTER GROWTH? Economists have reason to wonder given the latest retail sales, industrial output, and inflation figures. Overall retail purchases fell 0.3% in March, though they rose 0.2% minus auto buying; analysts polled by MarketWatch expected a 0.1% gain for the headline number and a 0.5% gain for the core number. Industrial […]

APRIL 11, 2016

FED: APRIL MIGHT BE TOO SOON FOR A RATE HIKE That was the message Wall Street gleaned from the Federal Reserve’s March policy meeting minutes. Several Fed officials, the minutes stated, felt that “raising the target range as soon as April would signal a sense of urgency” that would be untimely. Another passage noted broad […]

APRIL 2016

THE MONTH IN BRIEF The bulls ran back to Wall Street in March; the Dow, Nasdaq, and S&P 500 all gained more than 6% for the month, with the Dow and S&P returning to positive territory for the year. Oil prices continued to recover. The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged, and it also sent […]

APRIL 4, 2016

ANOTHER SOLID JOBS REPORT The latest Labor Department employment report shows net job gains of 215,000 for March. Labor force participation increased last month, and the jobless rate consequently ticked up to 5.0% (the broader U-6 rate edged up to 9.8%). Mean hourly wages rose 7 cents to $25.43, up 2.3% year-over-year. Payrolls expanded by […]

MARCH 28, 2016

MIXED NEWS ON HOME SALES New home buying increased 2.0% in February, with all of the gain attributable to a remarkable 38.5% jump in sales in the West (a region which had witnessed a 32.7% January plunge in new home purchases). In contrast to this Census Bureau data, the National Association of Realtors noted a […]

MARCH 21, 2016

FEDERAL RESERVE SENDS A DOVISH SIGNAL The Federal Open Market Committee voted 9-1 to leave interest rates unchanged last week, and it also scaled back its rate hike expectations for 2016. The central bank’s latest dot-plot projects just two interest rate increases by the end of the year with a median forecast of 0.9% for […]

MARCH 14, 2016

STOCKS SETTLE AT 2016 Highs A 5-day gain of 1.10% left the S&P 500 at 2,022.19 at the closing bell Friday. Settling at 17,213.31 Friday afternoon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.20% for the week while the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.67% to end the week at 4,748.47. On March 11, the S&P settled above […]

MARCH 7, 2016

242,000 NEW JOBS CREATED IN FEBRUARY Hiring picked up in America last month. In reporting this sizable net job gain in the second month of the year, the Labor Department also revised December and January hiring totals upward by a total of 30,000. That means payrolls have expanded by an average of 228,000 hires over […]

FEBRUARY 22, 2016

WALL STREET HAS ITS BEST WEEK OF 2016 Across four trading days, the S&P 500 rose 2.84% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, 2.62%; the Nasdaq Composite beat them both with a 3.85% gain. The Friday settlements: Dow Jones, 16,391.99; Nasdaq, 4,504.43; S&P, 1,917.78. WTI crude settled at $29.64 on the NYMEX Friday and gold […]

MARCH 2016

March 2016 THE MONTH IN BRIEF After a miserable January, the Dow Jones Industrial Average managed to gain 0.30% in February. While stock markets around the world struggled to advance, gold and oil rallied to a remarkable degree. U.S. economic indicators offered some bright spots, but also some disappointments. Housing indicators were mixed. Still, Wall […]

FEBRUARY 29, 2016

GOOD NEWS ABOUT CONSUMER SPENDING, Q4 GDP Personal spending and personal wages both increased 0.5% in January, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The BEA also revised Q4 growth up to 1.0% from its initial estimate of 0.7%. As a footnote to all this, capital goods orders jumped 4.9% in January.1 CONSUMER CONFIDENCE WANES […]

FEBRUARY 15, 2016

OIL JUMPS 12%, BUT STOCKS RETREAT FOR THE WEEK On Friday, WTI crude closed at a NYMEX price of $29.44 after a 12.32% surge. However, it fell 4.69% on the week, and major U.S. stock benchmarks fell as well. Across five days, the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 1.43% to 15,973.84; the Nasdaq Composite, 0.58% […]

FEBRUARY 8, 2016

UNEMPLOYMENT NOW BELOW 5% Although the economy added just 151,000 jobs in January, the Labor Department’s latest employment report also showed a reduction in the headline jobless rate to 4.9%. The broader U-6 measure of underemployment remained at 9.9%. Monthly payroll gains have averaged 231,000 since November; in fact, the 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month job […]

FEBRUARY 2016

THE MONTH IN BRIEF The opening month of 2016 definitely tested the patience of stock and commodity investors. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell, losing 5.50% on the month. Overseas stock benchmarks also recorded big losses. Key indicators showed our manufacturing sector contracting again; our service sector remained in better shape, and that could also […]

FEBRUARY 1, 2016

ONE CONFIDENCE POLL RISES, ANOTHER FALLS The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose in January to 98.1, beating the Briefing.com forecast of 96.3. The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index lost 0.6 points on the month, ending January at 92.0.1,2 NEW HOME SALES LEAP 10.8% Census Bureau data showed new home buying at its hottest […]

JANUARY 25, 2016

OIL REBOUND DRIVES STOCKS HIGHER Thanks to frosty weather hitting the Northeast and a round of short covering, WTI crude settled at $32.19 on the NYMEX Friday – up 9% for the day and 9.4% for the week. Oil’s surge (and hopes of quantitative easing overseas) bolstered stocks: across four days, the Dow gained 0.66% […]

JANUARY 18, 2016

LIGHT SWEET CRUDE SETTLES AT $29.42 Oil closed at its lowest level in more than 12 years Friday, plummeting 11.3% for the trading week on the NYMEX. Two factors contributed greatly to the rout: the Energy Information Administration’s forecast of the global crude glut lasting well into 2017 and the imminent expiration of sanctions against […]

JANUARY 11, 2016

CAN STOCKS REGAIN THEIR FOOTING THIS WEEK? Investors hope so after a very rough start to 2016. Declining oil prices and disappointing manufacturing data in both the U.S. and China helped trigger a global selloff: the major equity indices in Europe and Asia fell between 5-9% last week with our benchmarks following suit. The Dow […]

JANUARY 4, 2016

HOUSEHOLDS MORE OPTIMISTIC AS 2016 APPROACHES In December, consumer confidence increased. The Conference Board’s respected index posted a reading of 96.5 in the last month of the year, 3.9 points above its revised November mark. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com expected a reading of just 93.5.1 PENDING HOME SALES INDEX FALLS The National Association of Realtors […]

JANUARY 2016

THE MONTH IN BRIEF Stocks limped to the finish in December. The S&P 500 slumped 1.75% during the month and lost 0.73% for the year. The market rallied when the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade, but it retreated repeatedly during the month as oil prices continued to […]

DECEMBER 28, 2015

CONSUMER SPENDING IMPROVES 0.3% This November increase matched the forecast of economists polled by Briefing.com, and it was a nice change after a flat October reading (revised down from an initially reported 0.1% gain). Consumer incomes also rose 0.3% in November.1 HOUSEHOLD OPTIMISM INCREASES IN DECEMBER At mid-month, the preliminary University of Michigan consumer sentiment […]

DECEMBER 21, 2015

  TIGHTENING BEGINS As anticipated, the Federal Reserve raised the benchmark interest rate by 0.25% last week. The Federal Open Market Committee voted 10-0 to make the move. Its latest dot-plot forecast projects four rate hikes during 2016, which would put the federal funds rate above 1% by the end of next year. The Fed […]

DECEMBER 14, 2015

HOW LOW WILL OIL FUTURES GO? Did they hit bottom Friday afternoon, when WTI crude settled at $35.62 on the NYMEX? Maybe not, given the International Energy Agency’s new advisory that the oil glut may grow larger in 2016. Even Brent crude, the global benchmark, closed at $37.94 at the end of the week. Forecasts […]

DECEMBER 7, 2015

JOBS REPORT GIVES THE FED A GREEN LIGHT The economy created 211,000 jobs in November – a healthy hiring total that could prompt the Federal Reserve to tighten for the first time since 2006. Job growth has averaged 218,000 over the past three months (the Labor Department just revised October and November job gains upward […]

DECEMBER 2015

THE MONTH IN BRIEF While the Russell 2000 and Nasdaq Composite advanced significantly in November, the S&P 500 did not – the broad U.S. benchmark rose a mere 0.05%. Terrorists took hundreds of lives in France, Lebanon, Nigeria, Mali and Tunisia during the month, and the fear in the wake of those attacks was felt […]

NOVEMBER 30, 2015

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE TRENDS DOWN November saw the Conference Board consumer confidence index plummet. It dropped 8.7 points from its revised October mark of 99.1 to 90.4; economists polled by Briefing.com assumed it would rise slightly to 99.6. The CB attributed November’s poor reading (the lowest since September 2014) to declining expectations of job and wage […]

NOVEMBER 23, 2015

FED HINTS AT A DECEMBER RATE HIKE Minutes from the October Federal Open Market Committee meeting were released last Wednesday, and they revealed that “most” of the 10 FOMC members thought that conditions for a rate hike “could well be met by the time of the next meeting.” Another passage noted that “it may well […]

NOVEMBER 16, 2015

  RETAIL PURCHASES UP JUST 0.1% IN OCTOBER The tiny increase was actually an improvement, as retail sales were flat in both August and September. Gas station sales tailed off 0.9% in October, car sales 0.5%; offsetting those declines, online retail purchases were up 1.4% last month, spending at restaurants and bars up 0.5%. The […]

NOVEMBER 2015

THE MONTH IN BRIEF October was the least dramatic month the stock market had seen in some time – no sudden shocks, very little chance of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, earnings taking center stage. All this was just what the bulls needed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed a spectacular 8.47% during the […]

NOVEMBER 9, 2015

OCTOBER WAS A GREAT MONTH FOR JOB GROWTH Employers added 271,000 new jobs last month according to the Labor Department, far surpassing the Bloomberg consensus forecast of 182,000. The jobless rate ticked down to an even 5.0% while the U-6 rate measuring “total” unemployment fell to 9.8%. Wages also rose nine cents to $25.20, up […]

NOVEMBER 2, 2015

MIXED CONSUMER SIGNALS AT MONTH’s END Commerce Department data showed personal spending up only 0.1% for September. The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index fell 5.0 points in October to a mark of 97.6; the University of Michigan’s index of household sentiment did rise 2.8 points on the month to a final October reading of 90.0.1 […]

OCTOBER 26, 2015

EXISTING HOME SALES ACCELERATE The National Association of Realtors measured a 4.7% gain in residential resales for September, and the annualized sales pace of 5.55 million units was the second best seen since February 2007. Over the past 12 months, existing home sales are up 8.8% with the average sale price up 6.1% (September’s median […]

OCTOBER 19, 2015

A SURPRISE: HOUSEHOLD OPTIMISM RISES Even after a bad month for stocks and numerous negative headlines, the University of Michigan’s preliminary October consumer sentiment index showed notable improvement. It came in at 92.1, up 4.9 points from its final September reading. Analysts surveyed by MarketWatch expected an initial October reading of 88.5.1 A MILD SEPTEMBER […]

OCTOBER 12, 2015

SEPTEMBER FED MINUTES SHOW CAUTION Minutes from last month’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting provided a bit more insight into the Federal Reserve’s decision not to tighten monetary policy in September. Fed officials opted to “wait for additional information” before making a move, noting that “recent global economic and financial developments may have increased the […]

OCTOBER 5, 2015

142,000 NEW JOBS CREATED IN SEPTEMBER Is a global slowdown impacting the U.S. economy? The latest Labor Department jobs report seemed to say yes. Hiring last month fell far short of the 200,000 total projected by economists in a MarketWatch survey. Moreover, job gains across July and August were revised down by 59,000. There was […]

OCTOBER 2015

THE MONTH IN BRIEF The Federal Reserve left interest rates alone in September, but that did little to calm investors. Growth worries took the market south again – the S&P 500 lost 2.64% for the month as more disappointing economic news filtered out of China. Perceptions of reduced demand for crude oil and other raw […]

SEPTEMBER 28, 2015

A BIT MORE OPTIMISM AS SEPTEMBER ENDS The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index advanced slightly in the past couple of weeks, rising to a final September mark of 87.2 from its initial reading of 85.7. Regardless, this was the index’s poorest final monthly reading since October 2014. It did surpass the expectations of analysts […]

SEPTEMER 21, 2015

FED POSTPONES RATE MOVE, SIGNALS ONE SOON The September interest rate hike Wall Street had long anticipated did not occur, as the Federal Open Market Committee voted 9-1 against raising the federal funds rate Thursday. In their September 17 policy statement, Federal Reserve officials noted that recent “global economic and financial developments” had “somewhat” impeded […]