Market Week: September 1, 2015

August 31st, 2015

The Markets (as of market close August 28, 2015)

The latest stock sell-off in China sent U.S. stocks reeling at the beginning of the week. However, good economic news spurred by a favorable GDP report shifted momentum as stocks rallied to close ahead of last week. For the week, the Dow and Nasdaq were the biggest gainers. However, of the major markets listed here, only the Nasdaq remains in positive territory year-to-date.

The price of gold (COMEX) lost a bit, selling at about $1,133.30 by late Friday afternoon compared to $1,159.90 a week earlier. Crude oil (WTI) prices ended the week up, selling at $45.33/barrel by week’s end. The national average retail regular gasoline price decreased from $2.716 per gallon on August 17, 2015, to 2.637 on August 24–a drop of $0.079–$0.817 below a year ago.

Market/Index

2014 Close

Prior Week

As of 8/28

Weekly Change

YTD Change

DJIA

17823.07

16459.75

16643.01

1.11%

-6.62%

Nasdaq

4736.05

4706.04

4828.32

2.60%

1.95%

S&P 500

2058.90

1970.89

1988.87

0.91%

-3.40%

Russell 2000

1204.70

1156.79

1162.91

0.53%

-3.47%

Global Dow

2501.66

2368.40

2373.32

0.21%

-5.13%

Fed. Funds

0.25%

0.25%

0.25%

0%

0%

10-year Treasuries

2.17%

2.04%

2.18%

14 bps

1 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Headlines

·
Real gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 3.7% in the second quarter of 2015, according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the first quarter, real GDP increased 0.6%. The latest GDP estimate is based on more complete source data than was available for the “advance” estimate issued last month. The second quarter’s increase was driven, in part, by an upturn in business investment (spending on construction, equipment, and R&D), exports, and personal consumption.

·
Personal income enjoyed a healthy increase last month. However, consumers appeared to focus on saving rather than spending. Compared to June, personal income increased $67.1 billion, or 0.4%, and disposable personal income (DPI) increased $61.5 billion, or 0.5%, in July, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $37.4 billion, or 0.3%. It’s important to note that this data came before fears of a slowing Chinese economy, and the downturn in oil prices.

·
For the week ended August 22, new claims for unemployment insurance dropped 6,000 to 271,000. For the week ended August 15, the seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.7%, representing about 2.27 million continuing claims for unemployment insurance.

·
Consumer confidence rebounded in August from July, according to The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index. For August, the index came in at 101.5, compared to July’s 91.0. Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board said, “Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was considerably more upbeat, primarily due to a more favorable appraisal of the labor market.”

·
The housing market continues to flourish. Sales of new single-family houses in July were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 507,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 5.4% above the revised June rate of 481,000 and 25.8% above the July 2014 estimate of 403,000. The median sales price of new houses sold in July 2015 was $285,900; the average sales price was $361,600. The seasonally adjusted estimate of the number of new houses for sale at the end of July was 218,000. Demand has picked up as the supply of available new homes for sale has dropped to 5.2 months, down from 5.3 months in June, and 6.1 months at the end of July 2014.

·
The National Association of Realtors® reported that pending home sales based on contract signings for existing homes (not new construction) increased 0.5% in July compared to June. The index, at 110.9, is 7.4% above July 2014.

Eye on the Week Ahead

China has been proactive in trying to quell the economic turmoil that has impacted its own stock market and the markets of other countries, including the United States Will the stock markets recover, or are we in for what may be a legitimate market correction? The first week of September focuses on industrial productivity, international trade, and the employment situation.

Data sources: News items are based on reports from multiple commonly available international news sources (i.e. wire services) and are independently verified when necessary with secondary sources such as government agencies, corporate press releases, or trade organizations. Market data: Based on data reported in WSJ Market Data Center (indexes); U.S. Treasury (Treasury yields); U.S. Energy Information Administration/Bloomberg.com Market Data (oil spot price, WTI Cushing, OK); www.goldprice.org (spot gold/silver); Oanda/FX Street (currency exchange rates). All information is based on sources deemed reliable, but no warranty or guarantee is made as to its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed herein constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any securities, and should not be relied on as financial advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a market-value weighted index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The Russell 2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2,000 U.S. small-cap common stocks. The Global Dow is an equally weighted index of 150 widely traded blue-chip common stocks worldwide. Market indices listed are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment.

Market Volatility

August 26th, 2015

August brings with it the end of summer, but in recent years, bouts of stock market volatility have been common. It is quite normal for stock prices to decline at some point almost every year. In 30 of the 34 calendar years since 1980, the stock market, as measured by the S&P 500 Index, declined into negative territory at some point. At times like these, when markets are moving lower, we need to remind ourselves that market downturns are part of investing. However, the duration of the current bull market with its lack of notable pullbacks has made us more sensitive to any pullback. Four years have passed since the last correction (a decline of more than 10%) in August 2011. Yet, these downturns in the markets are typical and actually serve as a foundation from which markets can move higher.

A combination of worries has led to the latest episode of market turbulence, including:

China slowdown fears: As the world’s second largest economy, the market has become concerned with the steadily slowing economic conditions in China. Due to China’s currency being pegged to the strong U.S. dollar, the Chinese yuan appreciated and created a strong headwind for China’s export-oriented economy. These slowing economic conditions have created concern that China will not be able to continue to achieve strong levels of economic output. However, unlike Europe and Japan, which have already aggressively been embarking on accommodative policies to spur economic growth, China has just begun to utilize its significant capacity to unveil monetary and fiscal policies as an economy-boosting growth driver.

Lower oil prices: The market is concerned that lower oil prices signal the return of deflation. However, cheaper energy costs are a benefit to consumers who enjoy cheaper prices at the pumps, and businesses find manufacturing costs lower given more modest energy input costs. Thus, the decline in oil prices, largely on the back of increased supply given the energy renaissance unfolding in the United States, is a bigger economic and earnings benefit than drag.

Earnings slowdown: Oil price declines weigh heavily on the earnings of energy companies, which have dragged down profit growth to a near standstill. However, the underlying strength of corporate America is masked behind the likely transitory headwinds caused by the energy industry. In fact, excluding the energy sector, S&P 500 company earnings grew at a strong 9% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2015, and we believe the overall earnings picture will only improve over the remainder of 2015.

A first interest rate hike: The possibility of a Federal Reserve (Fed) interest rate increase in September, even if low, has added to investors’ concerns. The Fed is unlikely to be hasty and the release of its July meeting minutes suggested some apprehension over a potential September rate hike. We believe the Fed will take note of global events and hold off from raising interest rates until later this year or early next.

Despite these transitory issues that are contributing to market concerns, U.S. economic data still points to continued expansion. The current economic recovery has been gradual by historical comparison, but the benefit is that the slower pace of recovery has contained the excesses that typically accompany the end of a bull market or economic expansion. It is these excesses, not age, that end bull markets. The economic data demonstrate that we are not overspending, overhiring, overbuilding, or creating any of the other “over” conditions that lead to excesses. The market valuations were getting a bit overheated—though not to excess levels—and this pullback resets those valuations to more normal levels. All economic indicators to date point to us being just past half time of this economic cycle so there is more potential for positive market returns.

While volatility may linger until we get the next major economic data release on September 4, 2015 (the August jobs report), we believe the significant selling we have experienced in the past few days represents investor capitulation and likely presents an attractive entry point into stocks. But, as investors with long-term horizons, we look for those strong returns that come with long-term market exposure. However, in order to garner those gains, we have to weather the volatility. Therefore, we need to maintain our long-term focus and perspective as we move through some of these market bumps.

Best regards,
Westside Investment Management

Market Week: August 25, 2015

August 24th, 2015

The Markets (as of market close August 21, 2015)

What a week! Investors had to take cover as several market indexes swooned to depths not seen in quite some time. Stocks responded negatively to China’s continued economic woes, the not-entirely-unexpected resignation of Greece’s prime minister (although he may be reelected in September), and crude oil hovering around $40. Compared to the August 14 close, the Dow lost nearly 1,000 points–closing down about 6%, Nasdaq dropped close to 7%, and each of the major market indexes listed here are now in negative territory year-to-date.

The price of gold (COMEX) continued trending upward, selling at about $1,159.90 by late Friday afternoon. Crude oil (WTI) prices dropped further, selling at $40.29/barrel by week’s end. The national average retail regular gasoline price increased to $2.716 per gallon on August 17, 2015, $0.087 above the previous week’s price and $0.756 below a year ago.

Market/Index

2014 Close

Prior Week

As of 8/21

Weekly Change

YTD Change

DJIA

17823.07

17477.40

16459.75

-5.82%

-7.65%

Nasdaq

4736.05

5048.24

4706.04

-6.78%

-0.63%

S&P 500

2058.90

2091.54

1970.89

-5.77%

-4.27%

Russell 2000

1204.70

1212.69

1156.79

-4.61%

-3.98%

Global Dow

2501.66

2501.99

2368.40

-5.34%

-5.33%

Fed. Funds

0.25%

0.25%

0.25%

0%

0%

10-year Treasuries

2.17%

2.20%

2.04%

-16 bps

-13 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Headlines

· The minutes of the July meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) confirmed what had been alluded to by some individual members, including Chairwoman Janet Yellen–the economy in general is moderately gaining and the appropriate time is fast approaching for an interest rate increase. However, there is not a clear consensus among the members as to when rates should be raised.

· Inflation increased in July, but only by the slightest of margins. The Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers increased 0.1% in July from a month earlier, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this past week. Over the last 12 months, the all items index rose 0.2% before seasonal adjustment. However, excluding the volatile food and energy components, the index has gained 1.8% for the 12 months ended July 2015.

· In the week ended August 15, new claims for unemployment insurance rose to 277,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was revised down by 1,000 from 274,000 to 273,000. The number of continuing unemployment insurance claimants was 2,254,000 for the week ended August 8–rendering an advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate of 1.7% for that week. While new claims rose last week, these readings remain at historic lows.

· U.S. manufacturers indicated production growth slowed during August, with output, new business, and payroll numbers all increasing at a slower rate than in the previous month according to Markit’s Purchasing Managers’ Manufacturing Index (PMI). As a result, the headline seasonally adjusted PMI dipped from 53.8 in July to 52.9 in August. The index remained above the neutral 50.0 threshold, but the latest reading was the lowest since October 2013.

· Overall, the housing market continued its positive trend. Home builder confidence hit its highest level since November 2005, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Statistically, housing starts were a bit of a mixed bag, however. According to the Census Bureau, privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in July were down 16.3% compared to June, while single-family permits fell 1.9%. Conversely, privately owned housing starts rose 0.2% from June, the highest since October 2007. Single-family housing starts increased 12.8%, while privately owned housing completions in July were 2.4% above the revised June estimate.

· Reaching the highest rate since February 2007, total existing home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, increased 2.0% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.59 million in July from a downwardly revised 5.48 million in June, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Eye on the Week Ahead

Two important indicators relied on by the Federal Reserve in deciding whether to raise interest rates will be reported on next week. Both the GDP and personal income and outlays are indicators of inflationary trends, and also provide a general gauge on the strength of the economy.

Data sources: News items are based on reports from multiple commonly available international news sources (i.e. wire services) and are independently verified when necessary with secondary sources such as government agencies, corporate press releases, or trade organizations. Market data: Based on data reported in WSJ Market Data Center (indexes); U.S. Treasury (Treasury yields); U.S. Energy Information Administration/Bloomberg.com Market Data (oil spot price, WTI Cushing, OK); www.goldprice.org (spot gold/silver); Oanda/FX Street (currency exchange rates). All information is based on sources deemed reliable, but no warranty or guarantee is made as to its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed herein constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any securities, and should not be relied on as financial advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a market-value weighted index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The Russell 2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2,000 U.S. small-cap common stocks. The Global Dow is an equally weighted index of 150 widely traded blue-chip common stocks worldwide. Market indices listed are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment.

Market Update

August 24th, 2015

The last several years have been relatively calm for the U.S. stock market. This current bull market has gone 1,418 calendar days without a 10% correction – the third longest such streak in the last half-century. We hit close to 9% intraday last year but did not go over that 10% level. Recent market moves may have some investors and clients of ours concerned. Below are a few key observations I would like to point out.

• The market is down -5.8% on the week, near its low for the year. This represents a new intra-year decline from recent highs of -7.5%.

• In reality, intra-year declines of 5% or worse are not unusual at all. In fact, it’s been 20 years since we experienced a year without at least a 5% decline.

• This is one of the least volatile years in recent history with the market trading in a very narrow range.

What’s behind the weakness?

The market weakness does not appear to be associated with any one event, but rather seems to be the result of a few factors.

• Uncertainty around the timing of Fed “lift-off” continues to give the markets indigestion; markets hate uncertainty, and this is a key area of confusion.

• The narrative around weaker growth in China and emerging markets more broadly has spilled over into commodity and currency markets, causing a new wave of risk-aversion.

• A general lack of economic data has created a bit of a news vacuum, causing increased focus on the aforementioned developments.

• For investors, now is a time to invest with composure and to rely on the power of diversification.

We are watching the markets and looking for any areas in our portfolios where we would need to make adjustments or to take advantage of this sell off. We like the managers and funds we hold and are not concerned in the short run with this current volatility we are having.

This is a time where we look to put any cash to work. We may have a little more room to run lower, but we feel a bounce may be coming. The markets are getting to an oversold level at this point. The sentiment right now is very negative with all the headlines and thus a V shaped recovery may follow. Also being patient helps as well to stay the course with our current allocation and see how this shakes out.

James Frawley, ChFC,CFS
Partner and Co Founder
Independent Financial Advisor

Westside Investment Management, Inc.
A Registered Investment Advisor

An Ugly Week

August 22nd, 2015
The week of August 17, 2015 was not a pretty one for the global equity markets. In fact, many stock indexes around the world experienced their largest drop since 2012.* This is never a pleasant experience for investors, but sharp declines like this are an unavoidable consequence of stock investing.
What separates the men from the boys—and the women from the girls—is how one handles these events. Panic selling is a bad idea, as it almost always leaves you worse off than riding out the decline. Exactly when this one will end is impossible to predict (as always), but all selloffs burn out at some point. And one should take comfort in the historical observation that sharp declines are often followed by sharp rebounds.
The drivers for the selling are often unimportant, and more often than not, investors try to rationalize their actions afterwards by pointing to all the economic and financial problems in the world. But there is really no new information this week that wasn’t available last week—or last month. Rather, it seems that investors suddenly, and en masse, decided that the glass is half empty rather than half full.
At some point, hopefully soon, the sellers will exhaust themselves and the buyers will step in. Will they carry stocks to new highs? Only time will tell, but history is in our favor, as that’s what happens most often after a broad equity selloff.
Dr. Ken Waltzer, MD, MPH, AIF®, CFA, CFP®
Managing Director, KCS Wealth Advisory

Laura Gilman, CFP®, PFP, MBA
Managing Director, KCS Wealth Advisory

Adam Bragman
Director of Investment Research, KCS Wealth Advisory

Market Week: August 18, 2015

August 17th, 2015

The Markets (as of market close August 14, 2015)

Stocks moved slightly ahead of last week. Both the large-cap S&P 500 and Dow posted modest gains by week’s end as did the small-cap Russell 2000. The Nasdaq was relatively flat posting only a 0.09% gain week-on-week. The Global Dow, possibly influenced by the generally slumping Chinese economy coupled with that government’s devaluation of the yuan, finished the week in negative territory.

The price of gold (COMEX) rebounded from last week, selling at about $1,113.20 by late Friday afternoon. Prices for crude oil (WTI) fell to a level not seen since early 2009, selling at $42.18/barrel by week’s end. The national average retail regular gasoline price decreased to $2.629 per gallon on August 10, 2015, $0.060 less than last week’s price and $0.876 below a year ago.

Market/Index

2014 Close

Prior Week

As of 8/14

Weekly Change

YTD Change

DJIA

17823.07

17373.38

17477.40

0.60%

-1.94%

Nasdaq

4736.05

5043.54

5048.24

0.09%

6.59%

S&P 500

2058.90

2077.57

2091.54

0.67%

1.59%

Russell 2000

1204.70

1206.90

1212.69

0.48%

0.66%

Global Dow

2501.66

2517.77

2501.99

-0.63%

0.01%

Fed. Funds

0.25%

0.25%

0.25%

0%

0%

10-year Treasuries

2.17%

2.16%

2.20%

4 bps

3 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Headlines

·
The Producer Price Index, which measures the prices companies receive for goods and services, advanced a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this past week. Final demand prices rose 0.4% in June and 0.5% in May. Even with the recent uptick in prices, the PPI has generally declined over the past year with overall producer prices down 0.8% compared to the twelve-month period ending July 2014.

·
Nonfarm business sector labor productivity increased at a seasonally adjusted 1.3% annual rate during the second quarter of 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, as output increased 2.8% and hours worked increased 1.5%. From the second quarter of 2014 to the second quarter of 2015, productivity increased 0.3%, reflecting increases in output (2.8%) and hours worked (2.6%) during that period.

·
Compared to May, the number of job openings fell slightly in June, according to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). The decrease in the number of job openings may be due, in part, to an increase in the number of new hires, which rose 0.1% to 3.7%. The report further explains that large numbers of hires and separations occur every month throughout the business cycle. Net employment change results from the relationship between hires and separations. When the number of hires exceeds the number of separations, employment rises. Conversely, when the number of hires is less than the number of separations, employment declines. Over the 12 months ending in June 2015, hires totaled 60.6 million and separations totaled 57.9 million, yielding a net employment gain of 2.7 million.

·
In the week ending August 8, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance was 274,000, an increase of 5,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised down by 1,000 from 270,000 to 269,000. The 4-week moving average was 266,250, a decrease of 1,750 from the previous week’s revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since
April 15, 2000 when it was 266,250. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.7% for the week ending August 1, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured (continuing) unemployment during the week ending August 1 was 2,273,000, an increase of 15,000 from the previous week’s revised level.

·
Ten months into the Treasury’s fiscal year, the total budget deficit through July 2015 was $465.5 billion or about $5.0 billion over the same ten-month period last year, according to the monthly Treasury statement. July’s outlays were much higher than those for June, reflecting a shifting of payments from August to July. Excluding these items, the adjusted deficit is actually about $111.0 billion, which would bring the ten-month deficit to $428.0 billion vs. $460.5 billion for the same period in 2014.

·
The U.S. Census Bureau announced that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for July were $446.5 billion, an increase of 0.6% from the previous month, and up 2.4% over July 2014. Total sales for the May 2015 through July 2015 period were up 2.3% from the same period a year ago. The May 2015 to June 2015 percent change was revised up from -0.3% to virtually unchanged. The sales report for July, plus the revised upward numbers for May and June point to a likely upward revision of the second quarter GDP. These favorable sales numbers also strengthen the expectation that the Fed will raise interest rates in September.

·
U.S. import prices declined 0.9% in July, after recording no change the previous month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Both fuel prices and nonfuel prices contributed to the July decrease. The price index for U.S. exports fell 0.2% in July following a 0.3% drop in June.

·
The Census Bureau reported that manufacturers’ inventories were up 0.8% in June, while sales rose 0.2% for the same period. The inventory-to-sales ratio rose slightly from 1.36 to 1.37.

·
Industrial production increased 0.6% in July after moving up 0.1% in June. In July, manufacturing output advanced 0.8% primarily spurred by an increase in motor vehicle production, which jumped 10.6%. Production elsewhere in manufacturing excluding vehicles edged up only 0.1%.

·
According to the University of Michigan’s Consumer Survey, consumer confidence was virtually unchanged in early August at 92.9 compared to 93.1 for July. Nevertheless, this marks the highest nine month average since 2004. Renewed strength in personal finances largely offset slight declines in prospects for the national economy and buying conditions, which is attributable, in part, to the expected increase in
interest rates.

·
Internationally, while some details remain to be ironed out, Greece and its creditors reached agreement on the terms of a new bailout program, which, if ratified by other eurozone countries, could provide financing to Greece of upwards of 86 billion euros over the next three years. In response to a sluggish export sector and overall economic weakness, China devalued its currency (yuan) compared to the dollar.

Eye on the Week Ahead

The housing market has been upbeat for most of the year. Next week, reports focusing on new construction and existing home sales will show whether this favorable trend continues. Also, the minutes of last month’s FOMC meeting should shed more light on whether there’s a consensus among members as to when interest rates will be raised.

Data sources: News items are based on reports from multiple commonly available international news sources (i.e. wire services) and are independently verified when necessary with secondary sources such as government agencies, corporate press releases, or trade organizations. Market data: Based on data reported in WSJ Market Data Center (indexes); U.S. Treasury (Treasury yields); U.S. Energy Information Administration/Bloomberg.com Market Data (oil spot price, WTI Cushing, OK); www.goldprice.org (spot gold/silver); Oanda/FX Street (currency exchange rates). All information is based on sources deemed reliable, but no warranty or guarantee is made as to its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed herein constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any securities, and should not be relied on as financial advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a market-value weighted index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The Ru ssell 2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2,000 U.S. small-cap common stocks. The Global Dow is an equally weighted index of 150 widely traded blue-chip common stocks worldwide. Market indices listed are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment.

Market Week: August 4, 2015

August 3rd, 2015

The Markets (as of market close July 31, 2015)

The stock markets rebounded last week amid a tepid report from the Federal Open Market Committee seemingly halting talk of an imminent interest rate hike–although every indication points to some rate movement before the end of the year. Nevertheless, each of the major U.S. indexes showed improvement over last week. Both the large-cap Dow (121 points) and S&P 500 (24 points) posted gains, as did Nasdaq, which jumped almost 40 points. Even the Global Dow showed improvement.

On the other hand, the price of gold (COMEX) continued to hover around $1,095.00 as the demand remained weak. Crude oil (WTI) saw some upward movement early in the week, but ended up losing value–selling at $46.77/barrel as of late afternoon Friday. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.745 per gallon on July 27, 2015, $0.057 less than last week’s price and $0.794 below a year ago.

Market/Index

2014 Close

Prior Week

As of 7/31

Weekly Change

YTD Change

DJIA

17823.07

17568.53

17689.86

0.69%

-0.75%

Nasdaq

4736.05

5088.63

5128.28

0.78%

8.28%

S&P 500

2058.90

2079.65

2103.84

1.16%

2.18%

Russell 2000

1204.70

1225.99

1238.68

1.04%

2.82%

Global Dow

2501.66

2516.70

2543.35

1.06%

1.67%

Fed. Funds

0.25%

0.25%

0.25%

0%

0%

10-year Treasuries

2.17%

2.26%

2.18%

-8 bps

1 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Headlines

·
Following its July meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) essentially reiterated what it had been saying for much of this year–labor is improving, inflation is still running “below the Committee’s long-run objective” of 2.0%, so interest rates will not be raised. In fact, according to the FOMC press release, “even after employment and inflation are near mandate-consistent levels, economic conditions may, for some time, warrant keeping the target federal funds rates below levels the Committee views as normal in the longer run.” It would appear that September (the next scheduled Committee meeting) may be the earliest the FOMC would consider raising interest rates.

·
Following a slow first quarter, real gross domestic product–the value of the production of goods and services in the United States, adjusted for price changes–increased at an annual rate of 2.3% in the second quarter of 2015, according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the first quarter, revised real GDP actually increased 0.6%, up from a previously estimated -0.2%. The second quarter GDP is an estimate and is likely to be revised when the next report is issued in late August. Moderate second-quarter growth is attributable, in part, to an increase in exports, stronger consumer spending, deceleration of imports, and stronger state and local government spending.

·
The number of new claimants for unemployment insurance increased by 12,000 to 267,000 for the week ended July 25, according to the Department of Labor. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.7% for the week ended July 18, an increase of 0.1% from the previous week’s unrevised rate. Continuing unemployment claims increased by 46,000 to 2,262,000 for the week ended July 18.

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Reversing a two-month trend of declines, June saw new orders for manufactured durable goods increase $7.7 billion or 3.4% to $235.3 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau announced. While this sector can be volatile, increased orders may be evidence that manufacturing is beginning to finally pick up steam.

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The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Composite Index measures U.S. single-family residential real estate prices across 20 major metropolitan regions. According to the latest report, residential real estate prices actually dropped a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in May compared to April. However, the 20-City Composite is still up 4.9% year-over-year.

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The otherwise robust housing market may be showing signs of slowing as pending sales of existing homes fell 1.8% in June, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Despite last month’s drop-off, the Pending Sales Index is still ahead of June 2014 (110.3/101.9).

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Consumer confidence in the economy dropped in July, according to the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index®. The index for July stands at 90.9, down from 99.8 in June. According to the Conference Board’s report, “A less optimistic outlook for the labor market, and perhaps the uncertainty and volatility in financial markets prompted by the situation in Greece and China, appears to have shaken consumers’ confidence.”

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Similarly, the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment for July fell 3 points to 93.1. The Current Economic Conditions index dropped to 107.2 (compared to 108.9 in June), while the Index of Consumer Expectations lost 3.7 points, coming in at 84.1.

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The U.S. Labor Department’s Employment Cost Index (ECI) measures total employee compensation costs, including wages, salaries, and benefits. In a somewhat unanticipated result, the ECI rose only 0.2% for the 3-month period ended June 2015–the lowest result in the 33-year history of the report. For the year, compensation costs for civilian workers increased 2.0% for the 12-month period ending June 2015–the same increase as occurred during the12-month period ended June 2014. This report could influence whether the FOMC will push for an interest rate increase come its next meeting in September.

Eye on the Week Ahead

Next week will focus on the manufacturing sector and international trade. The latest information on unemployment and wages will be available at the end of the week.

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