Clarksville, TN – Last quarter, many investors watched closely as the Greek debt drama played out on a global stage. Three months later, investors once again are warily watching how international economic conditions impact domestic markets.
Headwinds include worries over slower growth in Europe and Asia; the effects of lower commodity prices; uncertainty over the Federal Reserve’s rate tightening policy and timing; suppressed inflation; and the potential for a U.S. government shutdown either at the beginning of October or during early December.
Clarksville, TN – The economic data were mixed, but consistent with the theme of global softness and domestic strength. Unit auto sales improved further in September – and, combined with the August data on personal income and spending, suggest that inflation-adjusted consumer spending (70% of GDP) is on track to have expanded at an annual pace of 3.5% to 4.0% in 3Q15.
The trade deficit in goods widened sharply in August, with that split evenly between stronger imports (despite lower oil prices) and weaker exports. Net exports and an inventory correction are expected to subtract significantly from 3Q15 GDP growth, but underlying domestic demand appears to have remained strong.
Clarksville, TN – In Janet Yellen’s first public speech after the recent FOMC meeting, the Fed chair downplayed concerns about the rest of the world and placed herself among the majority of Fed officials expecting to raise short-term interest rates by the end of the year. In a scary moment for investors, Yellen struggled to finish her speech.
She repeatedly lost her place, paused for long periods, and looked generally unwell. She received medical treatment. A Fed spokesperson said that she was dehydrated and that she felt fine later. While stock market participants have been worried about Fed tightening, they seemed to have been more encouraged by Yellen’s expressed confidence in the U.S. economy.
Clarksville, TN – The Federal Open Market Committee delayed the start of policy normalization, citing concerns about global economic and financial developments.
The FOMC is not reacting to overseas developments per se, but rather to the implications for the U.S. economy (some restraint on growth, further downward pressure on inflation). In the revised dot plot, there was little agreement about where the federal funds rate would be at the end of 2016 and 2017.
Clarksville, TN – The economic calendar was thin, leaving investors free to worry about slower global growth and Federal Reserve policy. The stock market was volatile, but not as much as in recent weeks.
The Bank of Canada and the Bank of England each left short-term interest rates unchanged. The BOC lowered rates in January and July, but showed no bias to cut rates further in the next few months. The BOE has been debating whether to start raising rates, but appears to have put such notions aside in the near term, reflecting concerns about the global economy.
Clarksville, TN – The economic data were mixed, but generally consistent with moderately strong growth. Unit auto sales improved in August. The ISM Manufacturing Index slowed. The Non-Manufacturing Index pulled back a bit after surging in July (still strong). The Fed’s Beige Book described growth as evenly split between “modest” and “moderate” across the 12 Fed districts.
The August employment report was mixed, but generally strong. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 173,000 (median forecast: +220,000), but with a net revision of +44,000 to June and July.
Clarksville, TN – A sharp drop in China’s stock market rattled investors’ nerves around the world. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 1,000 points at the open on Monday, regrouped, and then fell again, leaving the benchmark index down 588.
Volatility continued throughout the week, but investors were encouraged by China’s efforts to shore up its stock market and support economic growth. Oil prices fell further, but picked up by the end of the week. The market volatility has left investors struggling to figure out where share prices should be. Volatility is expected to decrease in coming days, but may continue for a while.
Clarksville, TN – China’s leadership wants the yuan to become an important reserve currency, but that means that the country would have to let the currency float freely and be set by market forces. The People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, decided to alter its exchange rate regime.
The currency is allowed to trade in a 2% band around a level announced before the markets open. The PBOC said that this base level would simply be set at the previous session’s close (rather than taken out of the air).
Clarksville, TN – The economic data were mixed, but generally consistent with moderately strong growth. The ISM surveys went in opposite directions – the manufacturing index was softer than anticipated, while the non-manufacturing index exceeded expectations. Unit auto sales rebounded. The July Employment Report was about as expected.
Nonfarm payrolls rose by 215,000, with a net upward revision to May and June of +14,000. That put the three-month average at 235,000 (a 2.82 million annual rate). The unemployment rate held steady at 5.3%.
Clarksville, TN – The week began with an 8.5% drop in the Shanghai Composite Index, which sent markets down worldwide (but the Chinese market appeared to stabilize later). The Fed made only slight alterations to the wording of the monetary policy statement, and did not provide a strong signal that a September move is coming.
Real GDP rose at a 2.3% annual rate in the advance estimate for 2Q15, a bit shy of expectations, but the first quarter was revised to +0.6% (from -0.2%). Annual benchmark revisions showed a somewhat slower rate of growth in the past few years (mostly in 2013), which implies that the output gap (the difference between GDP and potential GDP) is higher than it was thought to be earlier (an important consideration for the Fed).
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