Markets closed out another solid week of gains on the back of higher oil prices and some positive economic data. For the week, the S&P 500 increased 1.58%, the Dow grew 1.51%, and the NASDAQ added 1.91%.
Investors got their second look at fourth-quarter 2015 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) last week. The latest data shows that the economy grew 1.0% last quarter versus the 0.7% originally reported. Economists had forecast a drop in GDP growth to 0.4%, so the increase was a welcome surprise and helped tamp down recession worries.
In another positive sign, consumer spending rose steadily in January and inflation increased closer to the Federal Reserve target of 2.0%. These encouraging indicators could support another rate hike since they bolster the growth picture for this year. Though the Fed could technically raise rates at the next meeting in March, most economists don't expect to see higher rates until June at the earliest.
Though we expect volatility to continue over the next weeks and months, one contributor to volatility may be losing its grip. Over the last few months, U.S. equities have followed Chinese stocks over the edge, responding to worries about the health of the world's second-largest economy. However, last week, though Chinese equities tumbled again, American stocks closed out the week positive. The divergence is a relief because it could indicate that the short-term connection between U.S. and Chinese markets is breaking down as investors return to fundamentals.
Does this mean that what happens in China will cease to affect American investors? Probably not, but we can hope that investors stop worrying about every little twitch in China's markets.
The week ahead holds more economic data, the highlight being the February jobs report that comes out on Friday. Based on the weekly gains reported so far, we're expecting a solid showing and hoping for continued increases in wages, which could help boost consumer spending this year. Investors will be looking for signs that the domestic economy can withstand trouble abroad and hoping for signs of increased economic activity in the first quarter of 2016. Election-year politicking may add uncertainty when votes are tallied on Super Tuesday this year.
- Monday: Chicago PMI, Pending Home Sales Index, Dallas Fed Mfg. Survey
- Tuesday: Motor Vehicle Sales, PMI Manufacturing Index, ISM Mfg. Index, Construction Spending
- Wednesday: ADP Employment Report, EIA Petroleum Status Report, Beige Book
- Thursday: Jobless Claims, Productivity and Costs, Factory Orders, ISM Non-Mfg. Index
- Friday: Employment Situation, International Trade
New home sales fall sharply. Sales of newly built homes plummeted from a 10-month high in January. However, the fall seems to be largely because of unusually low activity in the West and the overall housing market appears to be healthy.
Consumer confidence declines in February. A measure of how Americans feel about the economy fell last month as consumers grew more pessimistic about their financial prospects.
Durable goods orders rise. New orders for long-lasting manufactured goods like electronics, appliances, and vehicles rose in January by the most in 10 months. The uptick in demand is a positive sign for the manufacturing sector this quarter.
Jobless claims rise, but remain stable. The number of Americans filing claims for new unemployment benefits rose last week, but the overall trend remains positive. Continuing claims also fell, indicating that workers are finding jobs and moving off benefits.
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