Despite Friday’s gain in the DJIA, the week ended down for the fourth consecutive week. After a strong showing in April with a 4% gain for the DJIA, May is likely to end with a loss for the month.
The recent weakness in the stock market probably reflects changing forecasts for the strength of the U.S. economic recovery. Last week first quarter GDP growth was confirmed at 1.8% and most economists are revising their estimates for the second quarter from plus 3% growth to 2-3%. Manufacturing has been slowing, the housing market is struggling and consumer spending has been hurt by higher gas prices.
The major economic news this week should be the May jobs report on Friday. Expectations are for 190,000 new jobs and an unemployment rate of 8.9%. The job picture continues to be the key to this recovery.
“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
- Albert Einstein
LinkedIn [LNKD +109%] euphoria produced a Tuesday-Wednesday rally, but was unable to sustain the market for the entire week. The declines ranged from 0.3% by the S&P to 0.9% by the NASDAQ. The YTD figures are still positive, ranging from +5.7% by the NASDAQ to 8.1% by the DJIA.
Some economic reports were positive, including the unemployment numbers:
Initial claims fell by 29,000 to 409,000 and continuing claims fell by 81,000 to 3.711M. Overseas, Greece was downgraded by Fitch, S&P warned about Italian debt, unemployment protests rocked Madrid and Iceland is experiencing another volcanic eruption.
Corporate earnings reports evidenced continued profit growth, but management’s outlook for the next quarter[s] was for the most part underwhelming. Real Estate indigestion continues as expected. Commodity prices are declining, which will give consumers a break, especially in the gas tank. The current equity softness should be temporary, since modest valuation and continued expansion will prevail.
“Real charity doesn’t mean giving away someone else’s money.”
- Doug Bandow, 1996
Last week volatility remained elevated however the equity markets posted fairly narrow results:
This week’s economic data mostly consists of housing and manufacturing. We expect housing data to remain depressed until the market clears the excess inventory. Manufacturing has been a leader in the recovery but we expect this sector to moderate as our economy moves from recovery to expansion. We would not be surprised to see the stock markets trade down over the next few months but we still expect the markets to finish the year higher from today’s levels.
“The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”
- Cicero – 55 BC
Last week stocks were lower amongst multiple challenges:
We still believe the US economy is growing but the path will be choppy. First quarter earnings season was very strong as a majority of corporations beat their earnings and revenue expectations. This week we’ll get updated CPI and PPI figures which will provide us with new data on inflation. The question remains, how much of the rise in commodity prices will prove to be “transitory?”
“Inflation is the one form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation.”
- Milton Friedman
Despite a plethora of headwinds, markets continued their move higher in April with the S&P 500 moving higher by 3.3%. Year-to-date the S&P 500 is up 8.4%. International stocks are beginning to perk-up as well with the EAFE index up 8.4% for the year-to-date period through April. Bond prices have risen 1.7% year-to-date … we expect bond prices to turn lower soon.
Earnings season is in full swing, and we witnessed a number of very strong reports over the past few weeks. Adding fuel to the fire, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated the Fed’s stance that rates will stay low for a while. Sooner or later, higher oil prices will impact consumer spending and confidence. So far, the markets seem to be dismissing the substantial drag that higher oil prices will have on the economy. Let’s hope that the issues are just “transitory” as Mr. Bernanke described them recently.
Source: Strategas Research Partners, LLC
“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”