Economic Update

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 of both housing starts and building permits declined. Census Bureau data shows an 8.8% reduction in groundbreaking for March. Building permits were down 7.7% for the month.1,2 OIL PRICES RISE FOR A THIRD STRAIGHT WEEK WTI crude settled at $43.73 on the NYMEX Friday. Expectations

Economic Update

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 production slipped 0.6% in March, matching the retreat in February. The Consumer Price Index rose only 0.1% last month while the Producer Price Index declined 0.1%.1 CONSUMERS A BIT LESS UPBEAT The preliminary April consumer sentiment index from the University of Michigan came in at

Economic Update

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 support for “a lower path of the federal funds rate relative to December” (in other words, a shallower ascent for the benchmark interest rate across 2016). Still, some officials saw merit in an April rate move should economic indicators show significant upside.1 PACE OF GROWTH

Quartlery Economic Update

A review of 1st Quarter 2016 THE QUARTER IN BRIEF In investing, patience is often a virtue. For an illustration of why it matters, simply look at the opening quarter of 2016. Stocks plunged in January and fell further in early February, and a bear market seemed a possibility. Then, Wall Street turned around. The Dow staged its greatest quarterly comeback in 83 years, rising more than 7% in March alone and ending March slightly positive YTD. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite each gained more than 6.5% in March. It was a quarter marked by rebounds; in stock indexes,

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 investors a dovish signal about raising rates across the rest of 2016. Though terrorist attacks in Belgium unnerved investors around the world, financial markets held up in their wake. Hiring and consumer confidence were strong, manufacturing grew stronger, and the economic news out of Europe

Economic Update

Here is a PDF of Weekly Economic Update 4-4-2016. 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 an average of 209,000 hires per month during the first quarter.1 MANUFACTURING SECTOR GROWS Rising to a March reading of 51.8, the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing PMI indicated sector expansion once again. In February, the

Economic Update

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 7.1% February decline in existing home sales, with tightening inventory a factor. Last month, the median sale price of a new home was $301,400, up 2.6% in a year; the median existing home sale price was $210,800, up 4.4% from 12 months ago.1   THE

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 the federal funds rate as 2017 begins. Fed policymakers now estimate economic growth of 2.2% in 2016, with inflation at 1.2% as the fourth quarter ends.1   CORE PRICES UP MORE THAN 2% IN 12 MONTHS The core Consumer Price Index measured 2.3% annualized inflation

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 its moving average for the first time since December 30, and both the S&P and DJIA had their highest closes of the year, reaching peaks unseen since intraday trading on January 4. (1) OIL RALLIES, GOLD RETREATS Light sweet crude closed at $38.50 a barrel

Monthly Economic Update 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 Street seemed to show a tiny bit of optimism by month’s end (or maybe it was simply reduced pessimism). Investors hoped there would soon be less correlation between oil prices and stock prices. (1) DOMESTIC ECONOMIC HEALTH Judging from January’s personal spending report, it appeared

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 the past three months. The headline unemployment rate remained at 4.9% last month while the U-6 rate including the underemployed fell to 9.7%. A year ago, the U-6 rate was at 11.0%. (1) ISM INDICES BEAT EXPECTATIONS The Institute for Supply Management’s

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 The Conference Board’s much-watched monthly index tumbled 5.6 points in February to a 7-month low of 92.2. Rather than a significant monthly fall, the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index took only a small one: it declined 0.3 points from its final January mark

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 at $1,230.80 on the COMEX. (1) WHOLESALE PRICES OUTPACE CONSUMER PRICES Core producer prices rose o.4% in January according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the headline Producer Price Index up 0.1%. The Consumer Price Index was flat in January, with

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% to 4,337.51; and the S&P 500, 1.95% to 1,864.78. Gold closed Friday at $1,239.00 on the COMEX, capping its best week since 2008 and its first four-week win streak since last April. (1,2) BETTER NEWS ABOUT RETAIL SALES Commerce Department data showed retail purchases increasing

Economic Update

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 creation averages are now all above 200,000. (1) CONSUMER SPENDING FLATTENED IN DECEMBER Personal incomes rose 0.3% in the final month of 2015, but the Commerce Department recorded no corresponding personal spending advance. The good news? The personal savings rate reached 5.5%,

Monthly Economic Update February 2016

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 be said for consumer confidence and household incomes. The Bank of Japan made an interest rate decision that raised eyebrows worldwide; OPEC made no mention of trying to reduce the global oil glut. Wall Street hung on and hoped for a calmer market

Economic Update

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 pace in 10 months in December – a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 544,000 sales. New home sales were up 14.5% for 2015. In other housing news, the National Association of Realtors said pending home sales rose 0.1% in December after

Economic Update

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% to 16,093.51, the S&P 500 1.41% to 1,906.90, and the Nasdaq 2.29% to 4,591.18. (1) EXISTING HOME SALES PACE IMPROVES 14.7% This December jump in resales was partly due to November transactions being delayed by new closing rules. Regardless, 2015 was a

Economic Update

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 Iran, which could mean greater crude exports from that country. The EIA forecast West Texas Intermediate crude prices to rise to the vicinity of $40 later this year. (1,2) CONSUMER OPTIMISM REMAINS Rising to 93.3 from its final 2015 mark of 92.6,

Economic Update

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 reported a 0.9% decrease in housing contract activity in November, in contrast to the 0.5% improvement that economists contacted by the Wall Street Journal had expected. Pending home sales were still up 2.7% annually through November, despite declining for three of