Weekly Drive: October 14th to October 17th, 2014

THE KEY ECONOMIC LANDMARKS WE PASSED

1. Retail Sales: -0.3% vs. -0.1% est.

A bit of a bummer report but also not completely unexpected considering sales were up 0.6% in August. Excluding autos, sales were still down -0.2% for the month. A look at Figure 1 shows weakness across many categories, including gasoline stations and clothing stores (back to school shopping over) while electronics/appliances rose a heavy 3.4% (up 5.8% YoY). Fingers were pointed at the timing of the iPhone 6 release, a strong summer buying season for cars, and lower gas prices. The question now is whether we are setting the tone for a disappointing holiday shopping season or “one month does not a new trend make.:”

Figure 1

Retail Sales Sep14

2. Industrial Production: 1.0% vs. 0.4% est.

After declining in August, industrial production blew past estimates in September.Within the main industry groups, all three were up on the month as shown below.

  • Manufacturing 0.5%
  • Mining 1.8%
  • Utilities 3.9%

Utilities jumped largely in part to a warmer-than-average September which kept A/C’s running while manufacturing got back to its upward trend. On a capacity side, overall utilization rose by six-tenths to 79.3 which stands around a full percentage point below the 40 year average. Manufacturing is 1.4% off from it’s average so there is still plenty of room to go. Much has been said about the relationship between capacity utilization and inflation. At times, there is a higher correlation and pairing between the two and at other times, not as much. Recently, inflation remains muted while utilization is steadily increasing (Figure 2).

Figure 2

caputil sep14

3. Housing Starts: 1017K vs. 1008K est.

Housing starts are a choppy a number and while the absolute level gives you some indication of activity, a simple permit or beginning of a build means little. The sales numbers which follow are where attention should rest. For the time being, we’ll say housing continues to move forward and progress past speed bumps.

LAST WEEK’S MARKET IN THE REAR-VIEW:  “One, Zero, Decimal, Zero, Percent”

The technical gurus, perma-bears, and others can all finally be satisfied the market “corrected.” Futures reached a high of 2014.3 on September 19th and a low of 1813.5 on Wednesday (SPZ4 – Dec 14 contract) to barely squeak out a 10% down move. Volatility rose sharply to follow the move with the CBOE VIX Index cresting above 30 for the first time since the mess we saw in the fall of 2011. The S&P 500 on a OHLC view made a nearly 100 handle move on Wednesday with the intraday low reaching in the -3% range. Crude oil continues to get slammed with the WTI front month briefly trading a shade below $80. Most analysis pegs profitability for certain types of drilling at $80-85/barrel. We could start to see production coming offline as the oil industry deals with oversupply due in part to the two-headed beast of slowing China demand and improved domestic production (e.g. North Dakota’s shale boom). Treasuries also experienced a wild-ride with the 10 Year falling under a 2% yield. Wednesday was one of those days you put your horse blinders on if you are a long-term investor. These things happen, it is best not to get caught up in the countdown, graphics, talking heads, and other nonsense continually thrown at you from the media. You can read the recent posts from John Eckstein and Rob Stein to get more thought from Astor’s Investment Committee.

LOOKING THROUGH THE WINDSHIELD

Economic

As we move into the week before Halloween, the data is light and mostly focused on housing. Existing and new home sales will be the more important releases for the week with a check-in on CPI likely giving further confirmation of inflation running below the Fed target of 2%. Data points like these will be put on the back burner in the near term as attention is directed toward Europe, China, ISIS, Ebola, the Fed, etc. Unless there is a major surprise, do not expect an update on housing to provide ammo for any extended market move.

Market

Will last week prove to be the bottom of the sell-off? Time will tell, but the charts in certain areas of the market look favorable. Small caps are leading the charge from the lows (at the time of writing, nearly a 6% rise from the lows on 10/15). The one concern for me is we get too hot too quick. I would like to see a test of lower levels again before setting up for the next leg higher. I say this statement mostly because I know there are a good number of people who think we are still expensive and want to see period of lower prices. Appeasing the crowd now will lead to a better tomorrow.

SCHEDULE

calendar 1020-1024

Weekly Drive: September 29th to October 10th, 2014

I am a week behind so it is time to catch up. Economic reports were sparse last week so much of the discussion there will be focused on the week prior. Financial markets will be covered for both periods.

THE KEY ECONOMIC LANDMARKS WE PASSED

1. Nonfarm Payrolls: 248K vs. 215K est.

We got the report we needed to see after August’s disappointing print of 142K (subsequently revised to 180K). Payroll growth was strong in several areas of the economy as seen below in Figure 1. Continued hiring in construction, retail, leisure, and financial all bode well for the economy going forward. The labor participation rate fell slightly to 62.7%, a level last seen in December 1977. Part of the decline came from 97K people leaving the work force, but it is more important to focus on the job growth currently occurring. Over the last year, the U.S. economy has added ~220K jobs a month. The 6m moving average is back to decade high in 2006 which marked the top of job expansion before the economy tipped over into recession. The combo punch of a smaller work force and job growth has pushed the unemployment rate below 6%. On top of all the job additions, we are seeing earnings and hours move up. The Fed is keeping close tabs on the labor market because as labor slack dissipates, wage inflation is the next concern. As it tends to be a lagging indicator, the Fed could overshoot its stated 2% target without realizing.

Figure 1

NFP Sept

2. ISM Manufacturing: 56.6 vs. 58.5 est.

Manufacturing took a small step back but remains at a comfortable level for further expansion. Nearly all categories experienced a slower rate of growth other than prices and production (barely) which increased at a faster rate than the previous month. For now, it is a one month drop from a sharp run up in the summer. Keeping ISM around a 54-57 level over the next quarter will give us solid footing for 2015.

3. Personal Spending: 0.5% vs. 0.4% est.

Positive news from the consumer side with the latest spending and income reports. After initially printing negative, July’s spending numbers were revised to unchanged while income saw a 0.10% boost as well. August beat expectations of a 0.4% increase and matches up with the 0.6% increase in retail sales for the month (September retail sales will be released later this week). With the disparity between spending (0.5%) and income (0.3%), the national savings rate moved down to 5.4%. Consumers look a little stretched when you compare against historical numbers, but I need to do further analysis to determine the factors.

4. Case/Shiller 20 City Composite (YoY): 6.75% vs. 7.40% est.

On a headline basis, the readings from this report look bad over recent months. However, we need to view them in the proper context. After coming out of the bottom, home prices increased solidly and we are now reaching the point of stability. Prices are increasing month-to-month still. The YoY growth is slowing though as the market returns to a more normal state. In a vacuum, we are up nearly 7% from last year! I’ll take it.

LAST WEEK’S MARKET IN THE REAR-VIEW:  “Welcome to October!”

Stocks ran into more pressure two weeks ago as October kicked off. Spoos (S&P 500 futures) dipped below 1920 for the first time since mid-August as global growth concerns and domestic reports provided reason. German and U.S. manufacturing data disappointed on the 1st, but a better than estimated NFP report on the 3rd brought buyers back into the game to give major equity indices a breather. Small company stocks have had a tough year so far and last week was no different. The Russell 2000 Index touched the -10% from year highs level during the week. There were certainly plenty of things swirling around the headlines to cause a stock shakeup: rates, China, the ECB, ISIS, Ebola, and Russia.

The story continued throughout last week. To understand the mindset, one need look no further than the report from the IMF which included statements about “frothy valuations” and a cut of its global growth forecast. There is a mounting level of concern about Europe, especially with negative reports about Germany’s manufacturing industry and economic strength as a whole. The strong USD move over the last two months has also heightened the level of worry (stronger dollar means more expensive imports for foreign customers). On the silver lining side, weaker currencies abroad mean U.S. consumers will be able to import goods for cheaper. Domestic growth is looking optimistic so the net result could be more muted than some are expecting. Cheaper raw materials are not the worst thing (crude falling to lows last reached in late 2012). Commodities are facing a strong dollar and weaker demand so the picture there looks fairly miserable from a short term trading view. I think we can expect a rotation out of multinational corporations in the coming months as investors focus on domestic exposure. Treasuries saw aggressive buying as stocks were hit. We are approaching 2.25% on the 10 Yr which is far below where many expected us to be at the start of the year. Last year the story was a 100bps climb in yields, this year it might be a 100bps decline. As central banks overseas cut rates, there will only be further demand for U.S. bonds and the dollar. Certain parts of the equity complex got mashed, notably, tech stocks received punishment after Micron Technology (NYSE: MU) issued a statement about a slowdown in the semi space. Volatility rocketed higher over the course of the week with the CBOE VIX Index moving above 22 to end the week. The long-term average for the VIX since 1990 is around 20. I think we forget sometimes volatility does exist, especially after summers like the one we just had (VIX averaged roughly 12.5 from June to August). Volatility is healthy for markets as long as it does not reach extreme levels. Investors with time horizons beyond next week should focus on the bigger picture. Stocks tend to go up. Domestic fundamentals are strong. An economy with a 2-4% GDP is supportive of buying risk assets. Since 1990, the S&P 500 returned 2.67%* on average in the quarter following a positive GDP reading.

*Assuming dividends re-invested. Calculated with the S&P 500 Total Return Index

LOOKING THROUGH THE WINDSHIELD

Economic

Data is relatively light this week with the most important releases being retail sales, industrial production, and housing starts. The volatility within housing starts has widened out in recent months, but this week’s number will be important in showing whether the upward trend remains. The same goes for industrial production which tipped over in August.

Market

I am not expecting a pretty flower for the week. The way we closed on Friday did not point towards a weak of unicorns, rainbows, and pots of gold. Taking off my econ hat for a minute and putting on my chartist vest, the technical signs look like we are poised to test certain support levels. The cries for a 10% correction get louder each day. We would need to breach the 1817 level on the S&P to hit that mark based on closing prices for the Index. Support levels on the way down are 1900 (broken), 1850-1860, 1815 (April low), and 1750 (Feb low). Small and mid caps are negative on the year. The Dow Jones is flirting with the flat line. The NASDAQ and S&P 500 are a few percentage points above zero, but could cruise below in the coming weeks. All-in-all, I personally think this environment is going to be rather short lived and will set the market up for the next move forward. If Europe’s growth issues do not blow out and domestic growth keeps chugging along, there are fundamental reasons to own equities.

SCHEDULE

Calendar 1013-1017

Weekly Drive: September 22nd to September 26th, 2014

THE KEY ECONOMIC LANDMARKS WE PASSED

1. Housing:

A mixed basket of data last week for housing on a base level. However, even with the miss from existing home sales, there was a silver lining. The number of all-cash deals fell to 23% and the number of purchases from investors fell to 12%. Homeowners now have a better chance of maneuvering in the market and could find themselves with accepted offers instead of being bulled over by the deep pockets of cash investors. The housing market is starting to get back in balance. It could use help from the labor market (higher wages) and mortgage lenders (easing of standards). The rental market will only cool off when home ownership becomes affordable and viable again for the young professionals in their twenties who still live in mom and dad’s basement.

2. Durable Goods:  -18.2% vs. -18.0% est.

On a headline view, this report looks downright abysmal but then you remember last month was +22.5%. The entire drop was simply transportation coming back to earth after the massive surge in airplane orders (Boeing) in the previous month. Ex transportation, we actually had a really good showing. August was up 0.7% and July was revised higher by 0.3%. Orders and shipments in the “core” group (ex defense, ex air) were both positive and point toward further strength down the line. Unfilled orders and inventories both stand at historic highs for the data series.

3.  Q2 GDP: 4.6% vs. 4.6% est.

Not a lot to say here. The final estimate for Q2 printed in line with expectations and we can finally put to rest the winter drop/spring rebound conversation. The chances of holding a +4% GDP in Q3 and Q4 are slim, but it would be stellar to see a three handle or the high twos. Even if we pull in 2.5% growth for the remaining two quarters, we sit at sub 2% for the year…

LAST WEEK’S MARKET IN THE REAR-VIEW: Voila!…tility

On an absolute level, volatility (as measured by the CBOE VIX) is still low in comparison to its historical mean. However, last week we had a 20%+ spike in the index as stocks went on a roller coaster ride. The slope was down all week, even with a mid and end of week bounce. Thursday brought out the sellers in heavy fashion and red was the color of the day. It did not matter what size stock you were, on Thursday it was down, down, down. The S&P 500 and Russell 2000 both ended the day down over 1.5%. The Dow had the largest point drop since July 31st. Most of the downdraft was focused on global growth concerns. The U.S. economy is the shining star right now and thus, the dollar has been heavily bid. Commodities have suffered as a result with crude oil treading water above two-year lows.

LOOKING THROUGH THE WINDSHIELD

Economic

The deluge of data begins. With month end numbers and NFP Friday in the mix, I will be busy all week reading econ reports. Expect a lot from me in next week’s post. If I were to pick out two numbers I am focusing on this week, they would be employment within the ISM Manufacturing number and hourly earnings in the employment numbers on Friday. I personally think the United States is working towards a second industrial revolution and will pull workers from overseas back to the mainland. The competition in wages is starting to slim down and technological advances here (think 3D printing) are starting to give us a second wind. Wage growth, as I have said many times before, is important in respect to labor slack.

Market

It looks like the last few days of September are setting the tone for October, generally a month which invokes fears of a crash (you can thank 1987 for that one). Large cap stocks continue to widen the gap between their small cap counterparts. The rally in equities this year has been dominated by large companies. As of Friday, the spread was slightly over 11% with the Russell 2000 negative by nearly 3% for the year. Looking at the table below, you can see the divergence in market breadth. We are strong believers of mean reversion here at Astor. I am sure there is a group of traders out there who see an opportunity to place a spread trade in order to capture the reversion (i.e. Buy Russell, Sell S&P). Then again, there is always risk of a further widening. We have spent the last few years drinking from the Fed Fountain and it has been sweet. Soon we will have to scout for other sources of liquidity (no pun intended).

Market Breadth 929

SCHEDULE

Calendar - 929-103

Weekly Drive: September 15th to September 19th, 2014

THE KEY ECONOMIC LANDMARKS WE PASSED

1. Industrial Production: -0.1% vs. 0.3% est.

The week started off on a sour note with this disappointing production number. However, looking deeper into the release we get solace from the fact the entire decline was attributed to a drop in the automotive industry. After rising more than 9% in July, motor vehicles and parts fell by a shade greater than 7.5% in August. Excluding auto, production rose 0.1% in July and August. It was merely mean reversion taking course. Certain areas are seeing accelerating demand, such as semiconductors (up 9.9% YoY). In the grand scope of the environment, the report was okay. The decline in automotive was offset by the prior months gains and the continued improvement in other subsections. (Keep in mind Empire Manufacturing was through the roof at 27.54 vs. 15.95 est.)

2. CPI: -0.2% vs. 0.0% est.

meworry

A sharp drop in energy prices helped caused the first decline in MoM CPI since April 2013. Gasoline fell 4.1% in August. Core prices (excluding food and energy) were unchanged for the first time since 2010. However, there are signs of inflation slowing moving into the system. As the months move along, the rolling six month CPI on an annualized basis is staying near or above 2% which is the Fed’s target. Expect to see inflation coming through owners’ equivalent rent as the rental market will likely stay hot in the coming quarters.

3. Housing Starts: 956K vs. 1037K est.

Once again we have a disappointing number caused by a prior month spike. Housing starts are always a volatile number and this time around was no different. A 22.9% increase led to a 14.4% decrease. It happens. The trend is still moving in the right direction. The 3/6/12 month moving averages for the numbers of housing units started are look good. While we are no where near the 2000s peak in 2005, we are slowly moving back towards those levels. As always, I am keeping an eye on this data point as well as other housing numbers to see if spring strength stays intact while rates remain subdued.

LAST WEEK’S MARKET IN THE REAR-VIEW: Dip and Rip”

Coming into the week at month lows, the S&P bounced hard off support in the 1980 range to surge to new record highs. Weak economic data (i.e. industrial production) kept the market muted on Monday but comments from the FOMC in the middle of the week gave reason to buy. The Fed re-iterated it would keep rates low for a “considerable amount of time” which was well received. Disappointing housing numbers on Thursday gave more support for rates to stay low and therefore, asset prices to remain elevated. While the broad market held fairly steady on Monday, growth names took a hit. Tesla (TSLA) took a plunge after a note from Morgan Stanley which led to selling across similar high flying stocks.

LOOKING THROUGH THE WINDSHIELD

Economic

The coming week is split between two important segments of the economy: housing and production. If the housing numbers are in line with last week’s releases, there could be chatter about the market slipping. Unless there is a substantial drop in demand, we should see any amount of weakness as simply a market still trying to figure itself out. On the production front, durable goods for August will be hitting the wires on Thursday. The key number will be the nondef ex air report since transportation caused a huge spike last month. Headline estimates are for a -18% drop as orders normalize. Another look at Q2 GDP will round out the week and should cause little market movement. The forecast is for an upward revision.

Market

After a strong week in equities and a divergence between small/large caps widening out on Friday, the picture for this week is probably mixed performance and further focus on the high beta names (story of the year so far). As QE3 purchases reach the end of the line, look out for rate reaction moves in the coming weeks.

SCHEDULE

Calendar - 922-926

Weekly Drive: September 8th to September 12th, 2014

A little late in posting today, Monday’s can be hectic. Let’s jump right in and have some fun.

THE KEY ECONOMIC LANDMARKS WE PASSED

1. Retail Sales: 0.6% vs. 0.6% est.

Hello there shopper! We thought you went away. You were just hiding behind revisions it seems. A great August report coupled with an upward revision for July should close the door firmly on the question of spending tailing off. A drop in gas prices (shown best by the -0.8% decline in MoM sales) likely provided fatter wallets to be used at furniture and appliance stores, both of which saw 0.7% increases. Mild weather also probably added to the picture. Usually we all spend August indoors with AC/DC on blast…I mean the A/C. All-in-all, this report leaves me…bum bum bum THUNDERSTRUCK.

2. Consumer Credit: $26B vs. $17.35B est.

Much of the buildup in consumer credit lately has been from the auto sector and student loans. Both areas have at least triggered attention but most likely remain under high alert levels. It all comes down to affordability. As long as consumers are buying within their means, we are on the right track. The default rate has ticked up lately but is still far off from recession highs. Just another data point to keep an eye on. A healthy job market and rising asset prices will likely prevent a larger issue so until the environment flips upside down, there is no need to hit the big red panic button.

LAST WEEK’S MARKET IN THE REAR-VIEW: “Muted consolidation off record highs”

Stocks took a breather last week after hovering around 2,000 for a few days. A bit of worry has crept into the market in regards to the expected rate hike coming in 2015. Anyone else feel like we are waiting for a blockbuster movie? Depending on which side you are on, the tag line is either: “A chilling tale of tightening monetary policy coming to markets in the spring of 2015, The Ratepocalypse!” or “A forbidden relationship between a financial instrument and a recovering economy coming to markets in late-2015, “A Slow Rising Affair.” I digress. It is Monday…sometimes you just need to make yourself laugh a bit. There were actually a multitude of catalysts last week which both gave reason to sell and reason to buy, including Apple’s new devices, further sanctions against Russia, some M&A activity in the food space, excitement about Ali Baba’s IPO, and strong consumer reports. A 1% dip over the course of a week is a shoulder shrug, especially coming off year and decade highs. I’m sure CNBC has a sell-off special report queued up already but ignore the talking heads.

LOOKING THROUGH THE WINDSHIELD

Economic

Much of the focus for the week will be on the Fed as QE3 winds down to the last little bit and more guidance (hopefully) is given in regards to rates. Some housing numbers (starts, permits, etc) will show where the state of the market is as we leave the summer season and head into fall. Industrial production already came out and along with capacity utilization, was disappointing. These numbers will be covered next week.

Market

The minor setback in equity prices could see continuation this week based on technical indicators, the Fed, economic numbers, and a whole host of other variables. On the flip side, we could bounce off these levels and provide solid support for the move into the end of the year. Most price targets remain north of 2,000 for the S&P 500 with some near the 2,050 to 2,100 levels. Personally, I think we end comfortably on a 2,000 handle to bring in low double digit returns (assuming dividends re-invested) for 2014.

SCHEDULE

Calendar - 915-919

Weekly Drive: September 2nd to September 5th, 2014

The first week after month end is always full of data. I have a lot to cover.

THE KEY ECONOMIC LANDMARKS WE PASSED

1. ISM Manufacturing: 59 vs. 57 est.

Another great report from the manufacturing industry. The underlying data sets remain well above the 50 mark which signals continued growth and several saw increases. Notably, new orders boomed to 66.7 and production is now at 64.5. The economic beast is slowly awakening. Additionally, on an inflation note, the prices paid index dropped slightly to 58. A cooling in the index gives the Fed a bit more time, but it still remains relatively high so the timeline could be getting squeezed.

2. Nonfarm Payrolls: 142K vs. 230K est.

And the streak is broken…We are now back under the 200K mark in payrolls. Many had expected a strong showing for manufacturing, however, employment was unchanged. Gains were seen in construction, health care, and services (17K of which was temp). As always, I expect to see revisions for the August number in subsequent releases. If the revisions bump the number up into the 170-200K range, we can consider it to be a minor blip in an overall positive trend. The participation rate fell again to 62.8% as more workers left the work force. Unemployment now stands at 6.1%. There was evidence of wage growth with hourly earnings rising 2.1% YoY.

3. Unit Labor Costs: -0.1% vs. 0.5% est.

Productivity was up 2.3% which was below initial estimates. Growth in manufacturing was much higher at 3.3% while labor costs fell during the quarter. The threat of runaway inflation is just not there yet. I would like to see a pickup in productivity if we expect the economy to continue posting 3-4% growth.

4. ISM Non-Manufacturing: 59.6 vs. 57.7 est.

Not one to be outdone by manufacturing, the services industry also put in a stellar report. Employment moved higher to 57.1, business activity shot up to 65, and new orders fell a bit to 63.8. Services have remained above 50 for nearly six years and do not look to be stopping on the march forward any time soon. As was also seen in the other ISM report, prices paid fell in August but still remain higher. In summary, the future looks bright.

5. Other Items:

The trade deficit narrowed, vehicle sales were much better than anticipated, and factory orders were mostly in line with expectations. I could get more in depth but suffice to say these numbers are further evidence of a economy making strides.

LAST WEEK’S MARKET IN THE REAR-VIEW: “Short Week, Holding Steady”

The S&P 500 is creating a nice little trading range for itself (1995 to 2005). The two main non-domestic influences on stock prices last week were Ukraine and the ECB. Flare ups in Ukraine initially brought out some sellers, but a late week cease fire agreement soothed concerns. The ECB enacted a bond buying program similar to QE in the hopes of boosting activity in the eurozone. Stateside, positive economic news and a disappointing payroll number kept us steady. Traders were adjusting to the end of summer, a short week, and the start of the year end grind.

LOOKING THROUGH THE WINDSHIELD

Economic

A little calmer on the economic front this week with focus likely on retail sales after a flat month in July. Traders’ antennae are slightly more alert after the NFP number, but there should not be much worry. A few inventory numbers may give a tad more information for GDP. Although with a 4.2% Q2 print, even a downside revision of 0.5% would likely elicit a shoulder shrug at best.

Market

Can we push higher? Volatility is non-existent and volume should be returning after the summer doldrums. Allow me to talk out of both sides of my mouth for one second. September could be ho-hum or it could get interesting. I personally think there is enough to support higher asset prices, but a trade below 2000 on the S&P every now and then would not be the worst thing to happen.

SCHEDULE

Calendar - 98-912

Weekly Drive: August 18th to August 22nd, 2014

THE KEY ECONOMIC LANDMARKS WE PASSED

1. Housing – there were a lot of data points related to housing so I’ll sum them up in quick bullet points.

Looking at these numbers, the housing market seems to have started drinking whole milk and is getting stronger. Starts and permits both exceeded estimates by a large margin and although much of the gains in these two have been in multi-family units, single-family saw healthy increases as well. Existing home sales moved the line closer to where we were in mid-2013 but remain 4.3% off last year’s peak. Median prices moved up to $222,900.

2. CPI: 0.1% vs. 0.1% est. (MoM)

Signs of inflation are starting to appear. While the headline number appears to be fine in relation to Fed targets (2.0% YoY), the annual rate using the last few months is notably higher. A drop in energy prices (-0.3%) in July helped subdue a 0.3% rise in food prices. Any strain on oil prices from geopolitical tensions could reverse this trend in the coming months. More information will be seen in the release of PCE this coming week.

3. Fed Minutes & Jackson Hole:

In short, labor markets need to show more signs of recovery before the Fed will start deciding whether rates should rise. Yellen has emphasized concerns about labor market slack for the last few months. Many viewed the Fed minutes last week as slightly more hawkish. A decent portion of the Street thinks the Fed is behind the curve and will let inflation run above target in order to give other measures of the economy time to straighten up.

LAST WEEK’S MARKET IN THE REAR-VIEW: “Bid, Bid, Bid

Equities caught fire last week. Comments from the Fed fell in the range of expectations and strong housing data helped propel stocks higher. Large and mid cap stocks put in a solid charge all week long while small caps bounced above and below to come back in line at Friday’s close. Traders bumped the S&P 500 within a few points of 2,000 while the NASDAQ continues to move closer and closer to all-time highs reached in 2000 (how many times can I use 2000 in a sentence?). Bond yields continue to remain under pressure although the strong buying action in equities helped alleviate some of it. What was sure to be a winning trade at the start of the year (i.e. short bonds) has turned out to be a head-scratcher for those who initiated the position.

LOOKING THROUGH THE WINDSHIELD

Economic

We have a full week of data ahead of us with additional insight into housing, manufacturing, consumer confidence, and GDP. There should not be much of a surprise in the second release of Q2 GDP and any revision will likely be to the upside (trade balance narrowed). I am keeping my eye on the CaseShiller 20 City Composite YoY number. Recent months have shown a steady decline in the rate of price increases. Additionally, July durable goods data will help set the tone for Q3 GDP.

Market

Geopolitical issues were shrugged off by traders and investors last week and it appears the market wants to push over 2,000 on the S&P 500. A solid move off Friday’s close of 1988 could provide the fuel to break through the resistance. With small caps barely positive on the year in terms of price change, there could be further upside to narrow the spread between the Russell 2000 (another mention of 2000!) and the S&P 500 which stood just shy of 8% as of Friday’s close.

SCHEDULE

Calendar - 825-828