Clarksville, TN – Fed Governor Lael Brainard, a dove, presented her case for why the central bank should delay an increase in short-term interest rates. While her views are her own (not representative of the Fed as a whole), a more hawkish tilt would have raised the odds of a September rate hike.
The key economic data reports were on the soft side of expectations, but were still consistent with moderate growth in the near term. Retail sales disappointed in August. Industrial production unwound a seasonal quirk that boosted July figures. CPI figures surprise slightly to the upside.
Clarksville, TN – As summer comes to a close, the markets – as represented by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 – reached new highs during August, putting all three major indices in uncharted territory.
Steady economic growth, rising consumer spending and improving corporate earnings coming in better than expected were all key factors in helping drive the market.
Clarksville, TN – The August Employment Report was a little light of expectations. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 151,000 (median forecast: +180,000), with a net revision to June and July of only -1,000. Private-sector payrolls rose by 126,000 – a +150,000 average over the last six months (vs. +221,000 in 2015 and +240,000 in 2014).
The unemployment rate held steady at 4.9% (vs. 5.1% a year ago). Average weekly hours fell (and hours for July were revised lower). Average hourly earnings rose just 0.1%, up 2.4% y/y.
Clarksville, TN – In her Jackson Hole speech, Fed Chair Janet Yellen was not expected to provide any significant clues about what will happen at the September 20-21 policy meeting.
Surprise! Yellen provided a strong hint that the central bank is a lot closer to raising short-term interest rates. Yellen said, “I believe the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened in recent months.” Take that in context with other evidence.
Clarksville, TN – The FOMC minutes (from the July 26th-27th policy meeting) showed that officials were divided on the timing of the next rate hike. Some felt that the labor market had already tightened enough and that the Fed risked generating financial excesses by keeping rates so low for so long.
Others felt that there was plenty of time to wait for more information and that it would be harder to correct course if the Fed moved too rapidly. Among voting FOMC members, the hawkish view (those wanting to raise rates sooner rather than later) appeared to be a minority.
Clarksville, TN – The economic data remained consistent with moderate economic growth and low inflation. Retail sales figures for July disappointed, coming in below expectations (but partly offset by upward revisions to June).
Preliminary productivity figures for the second quarter were weak (averaging a 0.5% annual rate over the last five years). Jobless claims remained very low. The Producer Price Index fell more than expected and pipeline pressures remained mild or slightly deflationary.
Clarksville, TN – The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both reached new highs during July, and the S&P 500 notched its fifth consecutive monthly gain.
According to research by Raymond James Chief Investment Strategist Jeff Saut, historically, any time the broad market S&P 500 has hit a new all-time high after 52 weeks spent below the previous high-water mark, we have seen average gains of 12.3% over the course of the next year.
Clarksville, TN – As expected, the Federal Open Market Committee left short-term interest rates unchanged. In its policy statement, the FOMC noted that “on balance, payrolls and other labor market indicators point to some increase in labor utilization in recent months.”
More importantly, “near-term risks to the economic outlook have diminished.” Kansas City Fed President Esther George dissented in favor of raising the federal funds target range by 25 basis points (to 0.50% to 0.75%).
Clarksville, TN – The economic data calendar was thin and reports were of little consequence for the markets. As expected, the European Central Bank left short-term interest rates unchanged and did not alter its asset purchase plans.
ECB President Draghi indicated that policymakers were encouraged by the financial stability following the initial reaction to the Brexit vote. He also said that more information will become available over time and the ECB would act using all possible tools “if needed.”
Clarksville, TN – The economic data were generally on the strong side of expectations. Retail sales rose 0.6% in June (median forecast: +0.2%), but figures for April and May were revised down (still a strong quarter).
Industrial production rose 0.6%, but that largely reflected a rebound in auto output (which had fallen in May). Ex-autos, manufacturing output was flat (-0.2% y/y, consistent with a soft patch, not a recession).
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