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.
October 7, 2014
Clarksville, TN – There were plenty of economic data reports, but the financial markets mostly obsessed about other things (quarter–end positioning, soft global growth, geopolitical tensions, Ebola). The headline figures from the employment report were better than expected, a positive for stocks and a negative for bonds.
Nonfarm payrolls rose by 248,000 in September, while the two previous months were revised a net 69,000 higher. Some of the strength reflected a rebound from special factors that had reduced the August total.
September 28, 2014
Clarksville, TN – The economic data were mixed. The estimate of second quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth was revised upward from 4.2% to 4.6%, as expected.
Existing home sales fell in August, reflecting a decline in speculators (i.e., fewer all-cash transactions). New home sales surged 18.9%, but that likely reflects the usual volatility in the data.
Durable goods orders fell 18%, reflecting an unwinding of July’s sharp spike in civilian aircraft orders. The three-month averages of shipments and orders for nondefense capital goods (ex-aircraft) suggest good strength in business fixed investments.
September 21, 2014
Clarksville, TN – Fed policymakers reduced the monthly pace of asset purchases (QE3) by another $10 billion, to $15 billion, on track to finish buying at the end of October. The Fed repeated that “it likely will be appropriate to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends.”
Fed officials’ projections of the appropriate year-end federal funds target rate indicated that most expect to begin raising short-term interest rates sometime in 2015, but there was a wide range in the individual forecasts (and implicitly, in their expectations of when rates will start to rise – with most spread roughly evenly between March and September).
September 14, 2014
Clarksville, TN – The economic data calendar was thin. Retail sales rose as expected in August. However, the figures for June and July were revised higher.
While the pace of consumer spending growth does not appear to be especially strong into 3Q14, it’s not terrible weak either (and certainly not as bad as the data suggested a month ago). Financial market participants didn’t seem to care much about the retail sales data.
Global anxieties receded a bit as the “no” vote for Scottish independence regained an upper hand in the polls. The markets didn’t react much to President Obama’s call for military action in the Middle East.