Topic: F&M Investment Services
Clarksville, TN – The economic data calendar was thin. December trade figures were roughly in line with expectations. The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index fell in the mid-February estimate.
Stock market investors were encouraged by the prospect for tax cuts following comments by U.S. President Donald Trump. In contrast, the bond market, recognizing that the process for cutting taxes will be contentious and lengthy, is less fearful of a large boost to the federal budget deficit (hence, bond yields have backed down over the past month).
Clarksville, TN – The Federal Open Market Committee left short-term interest rates unchanged, as expected, and tweaked the wording of the policy statement slightly. There were no solid clues as to the timing of the next increase in short-term interest rates, but officials noted the improvement in consumer and business sentiment and seemed a little more confident that inflation “will” increase to the 2% goal.
While January numbers are often suspect due to the magnitude of the seasonal adjustment, the economic data continued to paint a picture of the economy that is in good shape.
Clarksville, TN – The economic calendar was relatively thin. Small business optimism rose sharply in December. Growth in retail sales was concentrated in autos and gasoline – mixed and generally flat otherwise (with unusual softness in food) – but it was still a relatively good quarter overall.
Department store sales were weak, but that is a long-term trend (not necessarily a sign of consumer weakness). The PPI was largely in line with expectations, reflecting moderate pipeline inflationary pressures (consistent with further Fed rate hikes in the months ahead).
Clarksville, TN – Italy voted “no” on its constitutional referendum and Prime Minister Renzi resigned. South Korea’s president was impeached. The European Central Bank extended its asset purchase program to the end of 2017, but will reduce the monthly pace of purchases in April.
None of that disturbed U.S. equity market investors who continued to enjoy the Trump sizzle. After showing some signs of stability, bond yields again moved higher.
Clarksville, TN – There was a ton of economic data, most of it consistent with moderately strong growth in the near term. Nonfarm payrolls rose in line with expectations in November.
The unemployment rate fell to 4.6% (the lowest since August 2007), but that was partly due to a drop in labor force participation. Average hourly earnings fell 0.1%, following a 0.4% rise in October, up 2.5% y/y (still trending higher, but more moderately than it appeared a month ago).
Clarksville, TN – Next week, fresh economic figures will arrive, but none of the reports, including the November employment report, are expected to sway the Fed away from raising short-term interest rates on December 14th.
Job growth is expected to have been moderately strong in November, but keep a close eye on average hourly earnings, which have suggested the wage pressures are building (note that the average hourly earnings figures can be quirky – they are often revised the next month – but the trend is higher).
Clarksville, TN – The Federal Open Market Committee left short-term interest rates unchanged, as expected, and the policy statement was a near photocopy of the one in September.
The FOMC noted that “the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has continued to strengthen,” but for the time being, officials decided “to wait for some further evidence of continued progress towards our objectives.”
The October Employment Report was largely in line with expectations. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 161,000 (median forecast: +175,000), but the two previous months were revised a net 44,000 higher.
Clarksville, TN – Real GDP rose at a 2.9% annual rate in the advance estimate of third quarter growth, a bit on the high side of expectations. However, the economy was not as strong as the headline figure suggests (similarly, growth over the four previous quarters was not as weak as the GDP number implies).
Inventories, which had been slowing over the five previous quarters (subtracting from GDP growth), rose at a faster pace (adding 0.6 percentage point to overall growth). Net exports (a narrower trade deficit) added 0.8 percentage point.
Clarksville, TN – The recent economic data reports have done little to alter the overall picture (moderate growth, low inflation). The Fed’s Beige Book noted that economic activity has continued to expand, with most Fed districts describing growth as “modest” or “moderate.”
In mid-September, nine of the 12 district banks had requested an increase in the discount rate (the rate the Fed charges banks for short-term borrowing) – one more than in late July – suggesting internal pressures for higher short-term interest rates at the Fed.
Clarksville, TN – Minutes of the September 20-21 policy meeting showed that Federal Open Market Committee members were divided on whether to raise short-term interest rates, and most of those voting to wait felt that it was “a close call.”
Financial markets have increasingly priced in a mid-December rate hike. Amid a thin economic calendar, investors focused on what’s happening in the rest of the world, but also reacted to the initial earnings reports for 3Q16.
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