Weekly Economic Update 2/11/2019 Minor gains for major stock indices, a March deadline looms for U.S.-China trade talks, and good news about the service industry. Provided by: Paul Lewis, CFP®,CWS® THE WEEK ON WALL STREET Major U.S. stock benchmarks eked out slight gains last week, with corporate profit reports and news about U.S.-China trade negotiations vying for investor attention over five trading sessions. The big three ended the week little changed from where they settled the previous Friday. The Dow Jones Industrials rose 0.17%, while the S&P 500 Index gained 0.05%. The NASDAQ Composite ended the week up 0.47%. Looking

Weekly Economic Update 2/4/2019 In this week’s recap: a hiring surge, a noteworthy remark from Jerome Powell, a dip for a respected household confidence index, and gains on Wall Street. Provided by: Paul Lewis, CFP®,CWS® February BEGINS WITH SOME EXCELLENT ECONOMIC DATA Payrolls swelled with 304,000 net new jobs last month, according to the Department of Labor’s February employment report. (A Bloomberg survey of economists had projected a gain of 165,000.) The number of Americans temporarily laid off or working part time for economic reasons increased greatly in January as a consequence of the partial federal government shutdown; that left

Weekly Economic Update 1/28/2019 In this week’s recap: home sales slip, the Fed may be discussing an end date for its balance sheet reduction, leading indicators flash weaker signals, and equities continue to climb. Prepared by: Paul Lewis, CFP®,CWS® HOME SALES QUICKLY FALTER Seldom do existing home sales fall 6.4% in a month, but that was what happened in December. National Association of Realtors economist Laurence Yun called the drop a reflection of “consumer search processes and contract signing activity in previous months when mortgage rates were higher than today,” and noted that the housing market could be poised for

Weekly Economic Update 1/21/2019 In this week’s recap: consumer sentiment declines, new ideas surface in U.S.-China trade talks, oil advances again, and the major indices post weekly gains. CONSUMER SENTIMENT HITS A 2-YEAR LOW Analysts surveyed by MarketWatch thought the University of Michigan’s preliminary January consumer sentiment index would display a reading of 97.5. Instead, it came in at just 90.7, dropping 7.6 points from its final December mark to its lowest level since October 2016. Richard Curtin, the economist who has long overseen the university’s survey, attributed the slip not only to households reacting to the partial federal government

Weekly Economic Update 1/14/2019 In this week’s recap: the CPI decreases, a service sector activity index takes a fall, oil’s rebound continues, and equities advance. Presented by: Paul Lewis, CFP®,CWS® FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE MARCH, INFLATION RETREATS December brought a 0.1% decline in the Consumer Price Index, the first in nine months. As in November, cheaper gasoline was a factor: gas prices took a 7.5% monthly fall. The CPI advanced 1.9% across 2018. The core CPI, which excludes food and energy costs, rose 0.2% in December for a third consecutive month and gained 2.2% for the year. In short,

Weekly Economic Update 1/7/2019 In this week’s recap: an impressive jobs report, a disappointing factory activity index, a slight recovery for oil, and some tailwinds on Wall Street. 2018 Ended with a hiring surge The latest Department of Labor jobs report suggests an economy with plenty of forward momentum. Employers added 312,000 net new jobs in December, the most in ten months. The main jobless rate rose 0.2% to 3.9% as more Americans entered the labor force; the U-6 rate, measuring underemployment, held at 7.6%. Last month, wages were improving at a rate of 3.2% per year, an increase of

Weekly Economic Update 12/17/2018 In this week’s recap: inflation moderates, oil prices head south, and equities have a tough week. As FUEL GROWS CHEAPER, INFLATION BECOMES TAMER Last week, the latest Consumer Price Index arrived, showing no move for headline inflation in November and a 0.2% core inflation increase. That precisely matched the consensus forecast of economists polled by Reuters. What held the headline CPI in check last month? You can credit a sudden drop in gas prices, which fell 4.2%. Annualized inflation declined to 2.2%. Overall producer prices only rose 0.1% last month, compared to an October ascent of

Weekly Economic Update 12/10/2018 In this week’s recap: the pace of job creation slows, the factory & service sectors expand, OPEC signs off on an output cut, and Wall Street copes with turbulence. HIRING PACE SLOWS In November, U.S. employers added a net 155,000 hires to their payrolls. That compares with a (revised) gain of 237,000 recorded by the federal government for October. The Department of Labor’s latest jobs report showed the main unemployment rate holding steady at just 3.7%, and the U-6 rate (unemployed and underemployed) rising 0.2% to 7.6%. Annualized wage growth was at 3.1%. Will this middling

Weekly Economic Update 12/3/2018 In this week’s recap: stocks soar, the USMCA is signed, households spend more, and two housing market indicators fall short. COMMENTS FROM JEROME POWELL INSPIRE A RALLY Wall Street liked what it heard from Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell last week. While speaking Wednesday to an audience in New York, Powell stated that interest rates “remain just below the broad range of estimates of the level that would be neutral for the economy – that is, neither speeding up nor slowing down growth.” He also noted there was “no preset policy path” for raising interest rates

Weekly Economic Update 11/26/2018 In this week’s recap: a gain in existing home sales, a dip for consumer sentiment, more pain for the oil sector, and more losses for the big three. SUDDENLY, MORE HOMES SELL Existing home sales improved in October for the first time in seven months. The National Association of Realtors announced a 1.4% monthly increase, while also noting that the annualized sales pace was 5.1% slower than it had been 12 months earlier. Across the year ending in October, the median sales price for an existing home rose 3.8%. There were 4.3 months of housing inventory

Weekly Economic Update 11/19/2018 In this week’s recap: a bit more inflation pressure, a big fall retail sales gain, another setback for light sweet crude, and a down week on Wall Street. IN OCTOBER, INFLATION JUMPED THE MOST SINCE JANUARY The Consumer Price Index rose 0.3% last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was the largest monthly gain for the headline CPI since its 0.5% move in the first month of the year. A 3.0% leap in gasoline prices played a significant role. Core consumer inflation, which does not include volatile food and energy costs, increased by

Weekly Market Update 11/12/2018 SERVICE SECTOR KEEPS BOOMING At a lofty October mark of 60.3, the Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing purchasing manager index was a bit lower than the record 61.6 reading seen in September, but it also beat the 59.3 consensus forecast from Refinitiv. Across the 12 months ending in October, the mean reading for the index was a strong 58.5.1,2  IS THIS THE BEST YEAR FOR CONSUMER SENTIMENT SINCE 2000? It could turn out that way, if the University of Michigan’s influential index maintains its current level. Its preliminary November edition came in at 98.3, slightly below

Weekly Economic Update 11/5/2018 HIRING SURGED LAST MONTH The Department of Labor’s latest employment report painted a picture of a thriving economy. Payrolls expanded with 250,000 net new hires in October, with wages improving 3.1% year-over-year (that was the best 12-month wage increase in nine years). Unemployment remained remarkably low at 3.7%; underemployment, as measured by the U-6 rate, ticked down 0.1% to 7.4%. October marked the labor market’s 97th straight month of expansion; the main jobless rate has been under 5% for two years. Last month, there were 7.1 million job openings and 6.1 million unemployed Americans.1,2    HOUSEHOLD

Weekly Economic Update 10/29/2018 FIRST ESTIMATE OF Q3 GDP: 3.5% A 4.0% gain in consumer spending and a 3.3% advance in government spending helped strengthen the economy in the three months ending in September. Bureau of Economic Analysis data shows that the past two quarters represent the best 6-month period for U.S. growth since 2014. It appears likely that the economy will expand more than 3% this year; if that happens, 2018 will enter the history books as the best year for the economy since 2005.1  NEW HOME SALES SLUMP, BUT PENDING HOME SALES IMPROVE According to the Census Bureau,

Weekly Economic Update 10/22/2018 HOMES MOVE AT THE SLOWEST PACE IN 3 YEARS Existing home sales slumped 3.4% in September as the annualized sales rate decelerated to a degree unseen since November 2015. In reporting this, the National Association of Realtors cited the usual factors: climbing mortgage rates, tight inventory, and ascending prices (the median sale price in September was $258,100, up 4.2% in 12 months). The NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, now projects a 1.6% reduction in resales for 2018; economists at Fannie Mae are forecasting a 2.0% retreat. In other real estate news, the Census Bureau said that

UNCERTAINTY BREEDS SELLING, FOLLOWED BY A RELIEF RALLY On Friday, Wall Street rebounded from a disquieting slump that saw the blue chips take an almost 1,400 point dive. The S&P 500 gained 1.42% to snap a 6-session losing streak, the Nasdaq Composite rose 2.29% to fight back from a correction, and the Dow rose 1.15%. A new earnings season may take investors’ minds off the insecurities they have felt recently about bond yields, tariffs, and interest rate hikes. Those uncertainties weighed on equities again this past week: the Dow fell 4.19% to 25,339.99; the S&P, 4.10% to 2,767.13; the Nasdaq,

10-YEAR TREASURY YIELD HITS A 7-YEAR PEAK Friday, the yield on the 10-year note reached 3.23%, its highest level since 2011. Its yield rose dramatically last week, influenced by hawkish comments from Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell and reports showing minimal unemployment and a swiftly expanding business sector. All this strengthened investor perception that the U.S. economy has hit its stride. It also suggested a near future with recurring interest rate hikes, costlier borrowing, and subdued spending. That possibility weighed on equities. For the week, the Nasdaq Composite fell 3.21% to 7,788.45, and the S&P 500, 0.97% to 2,885.57; the

FEDERAL RESERVE MAKES ITS THIRD RATE HIKE OF 2018 The central bank set the target range for the federal funds rate at 2.00-2.25% last week, in a move that economists and investors widely expected. One development was unexpected: the Fed removed the word “accommodative” from its latest policy statement, a hint that it may be on the verge of altering its monetary policy outlook. The Fed dot-plot still shows one more interest rate hike for 2018 and three hikes in 2019.1 HOUSEHOLDS SEE A VERY STRONG ECONOMY Both marquee U.S. consumer confidence indices finished September in good shape. The Conference

Weekly Economic Update 9/24/2018 BLUE CHIPS HIT A 2018 HIGH On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average saw its best close since January. Friday took the index even higher, to another record settlement of 26,743.50. That capped a 2.25% weekly advance. The Dow was not the only major benchmark shattering records last week. The S&P 500 also settled at a historic peak Thursday before drifting slightly lower to 2,929.67 a day later; in five days, it rose 0.85%. For the Nasdaq Composite, the story was different: it declined 0.29% last week to 7,986.96.1,2 AUGUST WAS A FLAT MONTH FOR HOME

Weekly Economic Update 9/17/2018 CONSUMER SENTIMENT EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS In its initial September edition, the University of Michigan’s monthly consumer sentiment index rose 4.6 points to 100.8, a 6-month high. Economists polled by Bloomberg had forecast a reading of 96.6. Fifty-six percent of households responding to the survey said that they had made recent financial gains; the all-time high for the survey is 57%, recorded in both March 2018 and February 1998. The index’s future expectations gauge reached a 14-year peak of 91.1.1 RETAIL SALES ALMOST FLAT IN AUGUST The 0.1% August advance was the smallest monthly gain since February. Core