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Market Commentary: Monthly Job Growth Exceeds Expectations, New Stimulus Bill Advances

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Monthly Job Growth Exceeds Expectations, New Stimulus Bill Advances

The U.S. economy returned to rapid job growth last month as fewer new COVID cases and loosening restrictions increased demand for labor. Restaurants and bars accounted for more than half the net gains, as employment in this hard-hit sector increased 286,000. Despite efforts to reopen schools, government employment dropped last month.

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Market Commentary: Vaccine Distribution, Stimulus Package Driving Economic Growth Estimates

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Vaccine Distribution, Stimulus Package Driving Economic Growth Estimates

The impact of government stimulus checks continues to permeate economic data. Personal income rose 10% in January, and disposable income rose 11.4%. Where did the money go? It primarily bought goods or was saved. Goods spending rose 5.8% in January, and the personal savings rate jumped to 20.5% from 13.4% the previous month (Figure 1). Limits on activity continue to pressure services spending, which rose only 0.7%.

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Market Commentary: Stimulus Fuels Retail Sales as Strong Housing Market Faces Hurdles

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Stimulus Fuels Retail Sales as Strong Housing Market Faces Hurdles

American consumers put their stimulus checks to work last month. Retail and food service sales rose 5.3% in January, after declining 1.0% in December (Figure 1). Compared to one year ago, sales are 7.4% higher. The strong data resulted from the stimulus checks and declining virus cases. Because of restrictions and risk, the biggest winners were online retailers. Home improvement stores also experienced strong demand as consumers continue to spend extra time at home.

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Market Commentary: Despite Initial Worry, Inflation Remains Well Controlled

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Despite Initial Worry, Inflation Remains Well Controlled

 U.S. inflation rose 0.3% last month and is now up 1.4% for the year (Figure 1). Investor concern about inflation has increased in recent months against the backdrop of large stimulus packages and hopes of an economic recovery. Pushing back against that concern is a slowly recovering labor market. Initial jobless claims fell 19,000 from the previous week but remained stubbornly close to 800,000. Continuing claims were more than 4.5 million.

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Market Commentary: Federal Interest Rates Remain Low with No Increases Planned

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Federal Interest Rates Remain Low with No Increases Planned

 The U.S. employment situation remains lackluster. Only 49,000 new jobs were created in January. Unemployment dropped but only because labor force participation fell from 63.4% to 61.4% (Figure 1). As COVID-19 cases have dropped this year, some improvement is expected in coming months. Vaccine distribution remains the most important path toward an improved economy.

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Market Commentary: Understanding ‘Short Squeezes’ and Last Week’s Intense Market Demands

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Understanding ‘Short Squeezes’ and Last Week’s Intense Market Demands

The prices of a small set of heavily shorted stocks spiked last week as multiple factors conspired to create an intense demand for shares of some companies. The extreme move in prices has created a large gap between the current price and the price targets of even the most optimistic investors.

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Market Commentary: Chinese GDP Grew in 2020; U.S. Corporations Outperform Q4 Expectations.

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Chinese GDP Grew in 2020; U.S. Corporations Outperform Q4 Expectations.

Chinese GDP grew 2.3% in 2020, making it the only major economy to grow last year. In the fourth quarter, the Chinese economy grew 6.5% as China continued to gain ground on the U.S. economy. The growth was led by strong performance in industrial production, which rose 7.3% in December, compared to a year earlier.

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Market Commentary: Biden Proposes New Stimulus Package as Signs Point to Economic Slowdown

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Biden Proposes New Stimulus Package as Signs Point to Economic Slowdown

The signs of an economic slowdown continue. Initial jobless claims, which are released weekly, spiked to 965,000 last week. Claims increased by 181,000 and marked the highest weekly total since mid-August. Continuing claims increased 199,000, indicating those losing work are not finding new employment right away. Based on other data points, many of those filing for unemployment expect to be rehired when newly imposed restrictions are reduced.

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Market Commentary: Markets Start the New Year Strong Despite the Chaos in Washington

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Markets Start the New Year Strong Despite the Chaos in Washington

The vivid pictures and appalling actions in Washington, D.C., Wednesday captured the attention of the globe, but not the interest of markets. The Democratic sweep in the Georgia Senate races didn’t attract a lot of interest from investors either. Neither were markets fazed by the first loss of jobs in a monthly employment report since the recovery began.

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Market Commentary: S&P 500 Finishes the Year at a Record High, Unemployment Numbers Decrease Slowly

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: S&P 500 Finishes the Year at a Record High, Unemployment Numbers Decrease Slowly

The S&P 500 wrapped up a surprising year with another strong week. The index of large-cap stocks, including dividends, climbed 1.5% and finished 18.4% higher for the year. Figure 1 shows the performance of the S&P 500, ex-dividends, in 2020 and just how far stocks have roared back from their lows.

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