SEPTEMBER BRINGS A MEDIOCRE JOBS REPORT The Department of Labor’s latest employment snapshot shows payrolls expanding by 156,000 net new jobs in August. This was a retreat from the job gains of 200,000+ reported in both June and July. The headline jobless rate ticked up to 4.4%; the U-6 rate, which factors in the underemployed, held steady at 8.6%. Annualized wage growth remained stuck at 2.5%.1 POSITIVE NEWS FROM MAIN STREET Climbing once again, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index ascended 2.9 points to 122.9 in August. That topped the forecast of economists surveyed by MarketWatch, who anticipated a 122.5

SUMMER SLOWDOWN HITS HOUSING MARKET Low inventory and high prices are taking a toll on existing home sales. They declined 1.3% in July, according to the National Association of Realtors, making a second straight monthly retreat. In the past 12 months, the number of existing homes on the market has shrunk 9.0%, while the median sale price has risen 6.2% to $258,300. While resales were up 2.1% year-over-year, the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate reached a 2017 low in July. Census Bureau data showed new home sales falling 9.4% last month.1,2 GASOLINE FUTURES RISE, BUT OIL FUTURES FALL On the

RETAIL SALES RISE IMPRESSIVELY In July, they were up 0.6% – the largest monthly increase seen so far in 2017. This gain suggests the economy has gathered momentum in the third quarter. Core retail sales (which do not include food, construction, gas, and auto buying) advanced 0.6% for July as well. The Department of Commerce also revised some spring numbers: retail purchases improved 0.3% in June and were flat a month earlier.1 AN UPTURN FOR CONSUMER SENTIMENT The University of Michigan’s monthly gauge of how U.S. households view current and future economic conditions rose 4.5 points in its preliminary August

TAME INFLATION PERSISTS Can the Federal Reserve justify another interest rate hike in the second half of 2017? Given weak inflation pressure, maybe not. The central bank has set a 2% yearly inflation target, but the Consumer Price Index rose only 0.1% in July, resulting in a 1.7% year-over-year gain. Core consumer prices rose 0.1% for a fourth consecutive month in July, so annualized core inflation was also at 1.7%. The Producer Price Index fell 0.1% last month; analysts polled by Briefing.com expected a 0.2% rise.1,2 ANALYSIS: EARNINGS GROW AT a 10% PACE More than 90% of companies in the

LATEST JOBS REPORT BRINGS GOOD NEWS U.S. payrolls swelled with 209,000 net new workers in July, according to the Department of Labor. That beat the 183,000 estimate by analysts surveyed by Reuters. About 53,000 of the hires were at restaurants and bars, with another 49,000 in the professional and business services category. While yearly wage growth remained at 2.5%, the headline jobless rate ticked back down to 4.3%. The U-6 rate (which includes the underemployed) stayed at 8.6%.1 A MEAGER GAIN IN CONSUMER SPENDING The 0.1% June advance reported by the Department of Commerce matched the (low) expectations of economists

HOUSEHOLDS ARE FEELING OPTIMISTIC Unemployment is at a 16-year low, and the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index is near a 16-year high. It reached 121.1 in July, rising 3.8 points; analysts polled by MarketWatch expected a reading of 116.9. The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index rose to 93.4.1,2 HAVE HOME SALES REACHED A PLATEAU? Last week, the National Association of Realtors announced a 1.8% June retreat for existing home sales. New home buying only advanced 0.8% for June by Census Bureau calculations. Analysts point to tight supply limiting resales and a scarcity of affordably priced new developments discouraging new

WILL STOCKS GET AN EARNINGS BOOST? While the first full week of the Q2 earnings season saw no pronounced rallies, there were also no shocks. By Friday’s closing bell, 20% of S&P 500 member firms had reported calendar Q2 results, and a FactSet analysis showed 77% had topped sales projections and 73% had beaten earnings-per-share forecasts – a good sign in an earnings-driven market climate. The Nasdaq Composite gained 1.19% last week and settled at 6,387.75 Friday; the S&P 500 rose to 2,472.54 after a 5-day gain of 0.54%. As blue chips fell 0.27% across five trading days, the Dow

INFLATION PRESSURE WEAKENS The Consumer Price Index was unchanged in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That left its yearly advance at only 1.6%, nearly half a point below the Federal Reserve’s target (the core CPI was up 1.7%). After the announcement, some economists and market strategists wondered whether the Fed would rethink its plans for a third interest rate hike in 2017. The Producer Price Index rose 0.1% in June, leaving its yearly increase at 2.0%.1,2  RETAIL SALES, CONSUMER SENTIMENT INDEX DECLINE For the second month in a row, households scaled back their retail purchases – retail

THE QUARTER IN BRIEF After a remarkable first quarter, the stock market cooled off slightly in Q2 – but investors still saw substantial gains. Strong earnings helped take Wall Street’s collective mind off a decidedly mixed bag of economic signals. Consumers remained confident as the quarter unfolded; although hiring, inflation, and consumer spending weakened. Home sales declined, then rebounded. Overseas, factory activity in China and the eurozone showed improvement, and foreign equity benchmarks continued climbing. Many commodities took sizable Q2 losses. When the quarter ended, the bulls were still firmly in charge.1     DOMESTIC ECONOMIC HEALTH As one quarter ends,

HIRING PICKS UP AGAIN The Department of Labor announced some good news Friday: the creation of 222,000 net new jobs in June, the largest hiring gain in four months. Approximately 4.7 million people reentered the labor force and found work in June, a peak unmatched in 27 years of monthly data. Wages rose 0.2% for an annualized gain of 2.5%. The main unemployment rate ticked north to 4.4% as more Americans joined the job hunt; the U-6 rate, including the underemployed, increased 0.2% to 8.6%, its first rise since January.1                     

THE MONTH IN BRIEF June brought some definite headwinds to Wall Street, but the broad stock market still advanced. The S&P 500 added 0.48% across the month, even with tech shares selling off. As anticipated, the Federal Reserve raised the federal funds rate by another quarter point. Last month was a trying one for European stocks as well as oil and many other commodities. The latest round of U.S. economic indicators contained some disappointments; though, manufacturing and home sales surprised to the upside. All in all, increased volatility, terrorist incidents, and political happenings did not have much of an effect

HOUSEHOLD EARNINGS OUTPACE SPENDING According to newly released Department of Commerce data, personal incomes improved 0.4% in May, but personal spending advanced just 0.1% after a 0.4% gain in April. Core consumer prices (minus food and energy costs) rose only 1.4% during the 12 months ending in May.1,2,3    WERE CONSUMERS MORE CONFIDENT IN JUNE? By the looks of the University of Michigan’s monthly household sentiment index, no – that gauge fell 2.0 points to a mark of 95.1. On the other hand, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose 1.3 points to a reading of 118.9.2,3 PENDING HOME SALES WEAKEN

MORE HOMES MOVED IN MAY In a pleasant surprise for economists, both new and existing home sales picked up last month. The National Association of Realtors announced a 1.1% gain for resales, with the average house for sale spending only 27 days on the market. New home buying increased 2.9% in May, resulting in an annualized gain of 8.9%. The average sale price for a new home was $406,400, a record.1    LEADING INDICATORS IMPROVE The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index rose 0.3% for May, following gains of 0.2% for April and 0.4% for March. Most of the index’s components were

FED DELIVERS EXPECTED & UNEXPECTED NEWS As Wall Street anticipated, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates on June 14. The Federal Open Market Committee voted 8-1 to take the benchmark interest rate north by a quarter-point to the 1.00-1.25% range. The Fed also said it would begin to reduce its $4.5 trillion balance sheet at some point “this year” by slowing reinvestments. As a start, it will let $6 billion per month in Treasury holdings run off, along with $4 billion per month in agency debt and mortgage-linked securities. This implies upward pressure on long-term interest rates.1,2       RETAIL SALES, HEADLINE

MONTHLY NEWS AND INFORMATION FOR CURRENT AND FUTURE RETIREES Can Your Life Insurance Policy Help You Out in Retirement? Under certain circumstances, it can play a crucial financial role. Besides a death benefit, a permanent life insurance policy can accrue cash value over time (provided the premiums are paid). That cash value could prove useful in or near retirement. If you need to, you could withdraw some of it to pay for medical procedures, home improvements, long-term care, or a child’s college education. It could even provide you with additional retirement income. Moreover, distributions from a permanent life insurance policy

AN UPBEAT REPORT ON THE SERVICE SECTOR The Institute for Supply Management’s May non-manufacturing purchasing manager index displayed a reading of 56.9 last week, showing expansion in U.S. service industries for an eighty-ninth straight month. Although the gauge declined 0.6 points from its April mark, it signaled a solid pace of growth. The index’s employment component rose 6.4 points to a mark of 57.8, as 15 industries added workers in May. The PMI has averaged a reading of 55.9 over the past 12 months.1        FACTORY ORDERS DECLINED IN APRIL According to a new Census Bureau report, they

THE MONTH IN BRIEF May was another good month for stocks. The S&P 500 gained more than 1%, putting its YTD advance above 7.7%. While the housing market showed some spring weakness, hiring bounced back and most other important economic indicators did not falter. Wall Street seemed little troubled by politics, terrorist incidents, data disappointments, or earnings misses. Overseas, stock benchmarks largely advanced, some impressively. Gasoline futures ascended; mortgage rates descended. Both investors and consumers seemed firmly confident.    DOMESTIC ECONOMIC HEALTH The Department of Labor’s latest employment report showed a rebound in job creation. While March saw just 79,000

JOB CREATION, JOBLESS RATE DOWN IN MAY A day after ADP’s employment change report estimated a hiring gain of 253,000 in May, the Department of Labor’s latest jobs report told a far different story. It said employers added just 138,000 workers last month. The U-3 jobless rate fell to a 16-year low of 4.3% in May, partly because of people dropping out of the labor force. The U-6 rate, counting the underemployed, decreased to a 10-year low of 8.4%. Annualized wage growth improved 0.2% to 2.5%.1,2      CONSUMER CONFIDENCE INDEX DECLINES The Conference Board’s monthly consumer confidence gauge remained

CONSUMER SENTIMENT DECLINES JUST A BIT Ending May at a mark of 97.1, the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index fell 0.6 points from its preliminary reading for the month. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast the gauge to remain at 97.7.1       FEWER HOMES WERE BOUGHT IN APRIL Both new and existing home sales tapered off last month. The National Association of Realtors said that resales fell 2.3% for April, while the Census Bureau announced an 11.4% retreat for new home purchases. While demand was high, tight supply reduced the number of buyers.2   FED MINUTES: Q1 SLUMP “LIKELY TO

Today’s impulsive moves could breed tomorrow’s regrets. When emotions and money intersect, the effects can be financially injurious. Emotions can cause us to overreact – or not act at all when we should.     Think of the investors who always respond to sudden Wall Street volatility. That emotional response may not be warranted, and they may come to regret it. In a typical market year, Wall Street can see big waves of volatility. This year, it has been easy to forget that truth. During the first third of 2017, the S&P 500 saw only 3 trading days with a 1% or