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.
August 27, 2014
Clarksville, TN – Market participants had expected Fed Chair Janet Yellen to adopt a decidedly “dovish” tone in her Jackson Hole speech.
However, Yellen presented a balanced assessment of the evidence and theories of labor market slack. While Yellen still sees plenty of labor market slack currently, she left the monetary policy outlook as an open question.
She repeated the notion (also included in the FOMC minutes) that the Fed could firm monetary policy sooner if the economy strengthens more than anticipated, but could also tighten more slowly if the economy disappoints.
August 3, 2014
Clarksville, TN – As was widely anticipated, the Federal Open Market Committee tapered another $10 billion from the monthly pace of asset purchases (now at $25 billion, with the program on track to be completed at the end of October).
The Fed provided no additional guidance on short-term interest rates, but repeated that the federal funds rate target would likely remain exceptionally low for “a considerable period” after the asset purchase program ends and that economic conditions will likely warrant a below-normal federal funds rate even as the Fed nears its employment and inflation goals.
July 27, 2014
Clarksville, TN – The economic data were mixed. New home sales were much weaker than expected in June, with a sharp downward revision to May (March and April figures were also revised lower) – however, these figures are reported with an enormous level of uncertainty.
Existing home sales improved, with a further increase in the number of homes for sale. Durable goods orders rose moderately, but details showed a lackluster trend in shipments of nondefense capital goods. The Consumer Price Index rose 0.3% (+2.1% y/y), inflated partly by the seasonal adjustment for gasoline (which rose 0.3% before adjustment and +3.3% after adjustment). Ex-food & energy, the CPI edged up 0.1% (+2.0% y/y).
July 20, 2014
Clarksville, TN – The retail sales and industrial production reports had similar stories – gains in June were disappointing relative to expectations, but figures for April and May were revised higher. These data (which are subject to revision) are consistent with a sharp rebound in economic activity in 2Q14 (following weather–related weakness in 1Q14), but also suggest some loss of momentum heading towards 3Q14.
The Producer Price Index and import price reports showed no appreciable pipeline pressures for inflation.