December 22, 2014
Clarksville, TN – The stock market’s anxieties about oil prices, the Fed, and the rest of the world gave way to a renewed sense of optimism (or at least less pessimism).
Heading into the Federal Open Market Committee meeting, the key question was whether it would abandon the “considerable time” phrase. The FOMC had it both ways, removing the phrase, saying instead that it could “be patient” in deciding when to begin normalizing policy, but quickly adding that the intent is exactly the same.
December 14, 2014
Clarksville, TN – Retail sales figures for November were stronger than expected, while results for September and October were revised higher. The report suggests that consumer spending growth is on a moderately strong path in 4Q14 – and we aren’t even close to seeing the full impact of the drop in gasoline prices (expect a bigger benefit for the consumer in the first half of 2015).
The retail sales data did little to offset the negative mood in equities. A further sharp decline in crude oil prices added to the anxiety. A sustained drop in oil prices will be a significant negative for oil producers here and abroad.
December 7, 2014
Clarksville, TN – In recent weeks, the U.S. stock market has reacted negatively to bad economic news out of Japan, China, and the euro area and positively to efforts by the corresponding central banks to spur growth. The European Central Bank did not make that extra effort on Thursday.
After strong hints that quantitative easing is on the way, the ECB’s Governing Council disappointed by failing to launch QE. ECB President Draghi indicated that further extraordinary measures could be employed “if needed.” The ECB staff and euro systems have stepped up technical preparations for QE, but Draghi seemed to suggest that there is no haste toward QE.
November 25, 2014
Clarksville, TN – There are a few key financial market themes of the last several weeks. While the outlooks for the domestic economy and Federal Reserve policy are important, U.S. investors are sensitive to developments in the rest of the world.
Basically, poor economic news from the euro area, China, or Japan is a negative for U.S. equities, while any efforts by foreign central banks to address weakness are seen as a positive.
Japan posted a second quarterly decline in real GDP. Manufacturing gauges for the euro area and China were weak. The Bank of Japan extended its quantitative easing at the end of October.
November 16, 2014
Clarksville, TN – The economic calendar was thin. The report on retail sales, the only significant release during the week, was a little better than expected, restrained by the decline in gasoline prices. Note that lower gasoline prices should provide some support for consumer spending in the important holiday shopping season.
However, that support is likely to merely offset the impact of sluggish wage growth (leading to “okay” holiday sales). The impact of lower gasoline prices on consumer spending depends on how low gasoline prices go and how long they stay low, but usually arrives with a lag.
November 12, 2014
Clarksville, TN – As was widely anticipated, Republicans picked up enough seats in the mid-term elections to control the Senate. Voter turnout was low, especially among young people and Hispanics.
Some are hopeful for a new spirit of bipartisanship, which happens after every mid-term election. Others are expecting the Republicans to accomplish things, such as tax reform and immigration reform.
November 2, 2014
Clarksville, TN – As expected, the Federal Open Market Committee brought the large-scale asset purchase program (QE3) to an end and repeated that it expects conditions to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate “for a considerable time.”
The policy statement was viewed as more hawkish (or less dovish) than anticipated. The FOMC noted that the slack in the job market is “diminishing gradually” (in the previous statement, slack was described as “significant”). The Fed added that the initial increase in short-term interest rates likely would come sooner if the economy is stronger than anticipated or later if the economy disappoints.
October 26, 2014
Clarksville, TN – Mixed, but generally favorable, earnings reports and an ebbing in Ebola fears helped propel the major stock market indices higher.
The economic data were largely irrelevant. The Consumer Price Index continued to show a low trend in inflation (+1.7% y/y for both the headline index and the core). Home sales figures were mixed. The Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose 0.8% suggesting little chance of a recession anytime soon
Next week, the earnings calendar is brisk with about a third of the companies in the S&P 500 reporting. There are two key items on the economic calendar: the Fed policy meeting and the advance estimate of 3Q14 GDP growth.
October 19, 2014
Clarksville, TN – What a week. Concerns about the downside risks to Europe and the rest of the world pushed global equity markets down and the U.S. followed. The economic data mattered little for the most part, but disappointing retail sales figures added to the drop in U.S. stocks on Wednesday.
Yields on long-term Treasuries sank sharply. Following a few days of elevated volatility, the financial markets appeared to settle down on Friday.
October 15, 2014
Clarksville, TN – The two weeks of trading this month took investors on a wild ride. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, for example, posted its biggest point gain and loss back to back for the first time since 1997, according to the Wall Street Journal
Last Tuesday’s 273-point “Dow Dive” was reversed by Wednesday’s 275-point “Dow Wow.” But then the Dow slumped again, dropping 335 points on Thursday.