Market Week

MARKET WEEK: JANUARY 4, 2016

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MARKET WEEK: MARCH 7, 2016

3/7/2016
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The Markets (as of market close March 4, 2016)
Equities continued to show life as each of the major indexes listed here posted gains over the prior week. Favorable reports from the employment and manufacturing sectors may be quelling investor fears of an imminent recession. For the week ended March 4, each of the indexes listed here advanced at least 2.20%, with the Russell 2000 and Global Dow leading the way with gains of 4.31% and 4.42%, respectively. With each weekly advance, the indexes are moving closer to their 2015 year-end values.
The price of crude oil (WTI) increased again last week, closing the week at $36.33 a barrel, $3.49 ahead of the prior week’s closing price. The price of gold (COMEX) gained by last week’s end, selling at $1,260.10 by late Friday afternoon, down from the prior week’s closing price of $1,222.80. The national average retail regular gasoline price increased for the second week in a row, selling at $1.783 per gallon on February 29, 2016, $0.053 over the prior week’s price but $0.690 under a year ago.

Last Week’s Headlines
The news from the employment sector continues to be favorable based on the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 242,000 in February, while the unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.9%. The number of unemployed persons, at 7.8 million, was unchanged from the prior month. For 2016, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons were down by 0.6 percentage point and 831,000, respectively. A negative item from the report shows average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls declined by $0.03 to $25.35 in February, following an increase of $0.12 in January. Nevertheless, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.2% over the year.
January was far from robust when it came to international trade, as exports were down 2.1% and imports fell 1.3% leading to a goods and services trade deficit of $45.7 billion–up $1.0 billion from December. According to the Census Bureau, the January increase in the goods and services deficit reflected an increase in the goods deficit of $1.1 billion to $63.7 billion and an increase in the services surplus of $0.1 billion to $18.0 billion. Year-over-year, the goods and services deficit increased $2.1 billion, or 4.8%, from January 2015. Once again, a strong dollar and relatively low oil prices have impacted the U.S. trade deficit.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its report on productivity and costs for the fourth quarter of 2015. Labor productivity, which is the measure of the production of goods and services per hour of labor, decreased at a 2.2% annual rate during the fourth quarter. While output increased 1.0%, hours worked increased 3.2%. Unit labor costs in the nonfarm business sector increased 3.3% in the fourth quarter of 2015, reflecting a 1.1% increase in hourly compensation and a 2.2% decrease in productivity. Nevertheless, from the fourth quarter of 2014 to the fourth quarter of 2015, productivity increased 0.5%.
Favorable news came from the manufacturing sector as new orders for manufactured goods increased $7.5 billion, or 1.6%, to $463.9 billion in January, according to the latest report from the Census Bureau. This increase followed two consecutive months of decreases. Shipments of manufactured goods rose for the first time in seven months, jumping $1.4 billion, or 0.3%, in January.
The Purchasing Managers’ Manufacturing Index (PMI) is based on a survey of purchasing managers from several companies in an attempt to get a read on the manufacturing sector of the economy. The Markit U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index™ fell from 52.4 in January to 51.3 in February, marking the second lowest reading since October 2012. A slowdown in manufacturing output and new business growth contributed to the receding index.
The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) also produces a PMI, which contracted in February for the fifth consecutive month. The February ISM PMI® registered 49.5%, an increase of 1.3 percentage points from the January reading of 48.2%. A reading of less than 50.0% is indicative of contraction, so while February’s PMI is slightly ahead of January’s reading, the manufacturing sector is contracting nonetheless, but at a slower pace when compared with January. The last time the ISM Manufacturing Index was at least 50% was September 2015.
The Non-Manufacturing Index from the Institute for Supply Management indicates growth in February at 53.4%. Similar to the PMI, a reading above 50.0% indicates growth. The index for January was 53.5%. Thus, February’s index reading reflects growth, but at a slower rate. The indexes for business activity and new orders each showed growth in February, while the Employment Index decreased 2.4 percentage points to 49.7% from the January reading of 52.1%. The non-manufacturing sector includes industries such as services, construction, mining, and agriculture.
The National Association of Realtors® Pending Home Sales Index fell 2.5% in January to 106.0, compared with December’s index of 108.7. The index is still 1.4% higher than the index from a year earlier. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, cited several possible reasons for the January pullback, including a winter blizzard in the Northeast, an increase in home prices, and minimal inventory of homes available for sale.
According to the latest figures from the Census Bureau, construction spending during January came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,140.8 billion, 1.5% above the revised December estimate of $1,123.5 billion and 10.4% ahead of January 2015. Residential construction remained at about the same level in January as the prior month, while nonresidential construction increased 1.0% above December’s revised estimate. Public construction made a significant jump of 4.5% ahead of December’s revised estimate.
For the week ended February 27, there were 278,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance, an increase of 6,000 from the prior week’s unrevised level of 272,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate remained at 1.7% for the week ended February 20. Also for the same week, the advance number for continuing unemployment insurance claims was 2,257,000, an increase of 3,000 from the week ended February 13.

Eye on the Week Ahead
This week is fairly uneventful with regard to information on important economic indicators. Eyes will remain on the equities markets, both domestic and foreign, and on the price of oil.
Data sources: News items are based on reports from multiple commonly available international news sources (i.e. wire services) and are independently verified when necessary with secondary sources such as government agencies, corporate press releases, or trade organizations. Market data: Based on data reported in WSJ Market Data Center (indexes); U.S. Treasury (Treasury yields); U.S. Energy Information Administration/Bloomberg.com Market Data (oil spot price, WTI Cushing, OK); www.goldprice.org (spot gold/silver); Oanda/FX Street (currency exchange rates). All information is based on sources deemed reliable, but no warranty or guarantee is made as to its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed herein constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any securities, and should not be relied on as financial advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a market-value weighted index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The Russell 2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2,000 U.S. small-cap common stocks. The Global Dow is an equally weighted index of 150 widely traded blue-chip common stocks worldwide. Market indices listed are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment.

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MARKET WEEK: FEBRUARY 29, 2016

2/29/2016
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The Markets (as of market close February 26, 2016)
Last week saw a mixed bag of information from some major economic sectors, which may have influenced the equities markets to record some marginal gains by week’s end. Each of the indexes listed here posted week-on-week gains, led by the Russell 2000 and Nasdaq. The Dow and S&P 500 posted gains of about 1.5%, respectively, while the Global Dow inched ahead despite Saudi Arabia’s oil minister saying he did not foresee cuts in the supply of oil, likely adding to the glut of global supply.
The price of crude oil (WTI) increased again last week, closing the week at $32.84 a barrel, $3.01 ahead of the prior week’s closing price. The price of gold (COMEX) fell by last week’s end, selling at $1,222.80 by late Friday afternoon, down from the prior week’s closing price of $1,228.00. The national average retail regular gasoline price actually increased for the first time in eight weeks, selling at $1.730 per gallon on February 22, 2016, a mere $0.006 above the prior week’s price of $1.724 but still $0.602 under a year ago.

Last Week’s Headlines
The “second” estimate of the gross domestic product was a little better than the first as the GDP advanced 1.0%, which is 0.3 percentage point above the initial fourth quarter estimate. The GDP, which is the broadest measure of economic activity in the United States, increased 2.0% in the third quarter and 3.9% in the second. The increase in real GDP in the fourth quarter reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), residential fixed investment, and federal government spending, gains that were partly offset by negative contributions from exports, nonresidential fixed investment, state and local government spending, and private inventory investment. Essentially, the fourth quarter deceleration in the GDP reflects weaker consumer spending. However, this trend may be changing as evidenced by January’s income and outlays report that follows.
According to the latest report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, consumers increased spending in January, as personal spending increased 0.5% from December. An indicator of inflationary trends relied upon by the Fed, core personal consumption expenditures (excluding volatile food and energy costs) gained 0.3% in January and is 1.7% ahead of the same period last year as it inches toward the Fed’s inflation target of 2.0%. Both personal income (pretax earnings) and disposable personal income (less taxes) increased 0.5%. Wages and salaries increased $48.1 billion in January, compared with an increase of $18.3 billion in December. Personal saving remained relatively unchanged at $705.1 billion in January, compared with $709.2 billion in December.
Existing home sales increased 0.4% in January to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 5.47 million–the highest annual rate in six months. The median sales price of existing homes fell from $223,200 in December to $213,800 in January, but it is still up 8.2% from January 2015, according to the National Association of Realtors®. While total housing inventory is 2.2% lower than a year ago, January saw inventory increase 3.4% over the prior month.
In another sign that the real estate sector is slowing a bit, sales of new single-family homes sunk 9.2% in January compared with the prior month. January’s 494,000 sales figure is 50,000 off December’s revised total, and 5.2% below the January 2015 estimate of 521,000. The median sales price of new houses sold in January was $278,800, while the average sales price was $365,700. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of January was 238,000. This represents a supply of 5.8 months at the current sales rate.
The Census Bureau’s advance report on orders for manufactured durable goods (expected to last at least three years) shows new orders increased $11.1 billion, or 4.9%, to $237.5 billion in January following two consecutive months of declines. Excluding transportation (up $8.2 billion, or 11.5%), new orders increased 1.8%. Excluding defense, new orders increased 4.5%. Shipments of manufactured durable goods in January, up two of the last three months, increased $4.6 billion, or 1.9%, to $241.9 billion. Inventories of manufactured durable goods in January, down six of the last seven months, decreased $0.4 billion, or 0.1%, to $396.3 billion. This report signals an investment by business in goods and equipment–a welcome sign for the manufacturing sector of the economy.
The advance report on the trade deficit in goods for January shows the trade gap widening to $62.2 billion, compared with $61.5 billion in December. Both exports (2.9%) and imports (1.5%) decreased for the month.
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, which had increased moderately in January, declined in February. The index now stands at 92.2, down from 97.8 in January. The index was reflective of surveyed consumers’ weakened assessment of current business conditions, apprehension about their personal financial situations, and, to a lesser degree, labor market prospects. Following suit, the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment dropped 0.3 percentage point in February to 91.7, compared with 92.0 in January.
For the week ended February 20, there were 272,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance, an increase of 10,000 from the prior week’s unrevised level of 262,000. For the week ended February 13, the advance number for continuing unemployment insurance claims was 2,253,000, a decrease of 19,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate remained at 1.7% for the week ended February 13.

Eye on the Week Ahead
Important economic information available this week centers on two sectors that have not been particularly favorable of late: manufacturing and international trade. On the other hand, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its latest figures on the employment situation, which has been one of the few economic bright spots over the last several months.

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MARKET WEEK: FEBRUARY 22, 2016

2/22/2016
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The Markets (as of market close February 19, 2016)The major indexes listed here posted gains by the end of last week, marking the best overall week of performance in the new year. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 posted end-of-week gains of 2.62% and 2.84%, respectively. The Nasdaq and Russell 2000 recouped some of their early-year losses with gains close to 4.0%. Even the Global Dow gained 3.80% over the prior week’s close.
The price of crude oil (WTI) increased, closing the week at $29.83 a barrel, $0.81 ahead of the prior week’s closing price. The price of gold (COMEX), possibly feeling the effects of money moving back into equities, fell by last week’s end selling at $1,228 by late Friday afternoon, down from the prior week’s closing price of $1,238.20. The national average retail regular gasoline price decreased for the seventh week in a row to $1.724 per gallon on February 15, 2016, $0.035 below the prior week’s price and $0.550 under a year ago.

Last Week’s Headlines
The minutes from January’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting highlight a mixed bag of economic indicators. While the Committee noted improving labor market conditions, increased household and business spending, and an improving housing sector, these positive trends were somewhat offset by slowing economic growth, inflation running below the Committee’s target rate of 2.0%, soft exports, and declining inventory investment. As to whether and when target rates will be increased, the Committee emphasized that it will continue to assess realized and expected economic conditions relative to the Committee’s objectives of maximum employment and 2% inflation. This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments. At present, due to the apparent uncertainty of inflationary trends and economic growth, the Committee maintains its intent to gradually increase the federal funds rate, which will likely remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run.
The Housing Market Index (HMI), based on a monthly survey of members of the National Association of Home Builders, is designed to reflect the pulse of the single-family housing market. According to the latest survey, builder confidence is dropping as evidenced by February’s HMI reading of 58, which is 3 points lower than January’s reading and the lowest reading since May 2015. Builders noted high land costs, the lack of available land, and the scarcity of labor as primary reasons for the slowdown in the single-family housing market. On the plus side, respondents did feel the prospective sales market would pick up over the next six months. Also, it’s important to note that these are preliminary readings that will likely be revised later.
Housing starts and building permits for privately owned housing units were both down in January from the prior month. Applications for building permits for new home construction were at an annual rate of 1,202,000–0.2% below the revised December rate, but 13.5% above the January 2015 estimate. Privately owned housing starts for January were at an annual rate of 1,099,000, which is 3.8% below December’s rate, but 1.8% above the rate from a year earlier. On the other hand, completions were up in January, 2.0% ahead of December’s revised rate and 8.4% above the rate for January 2015. Nevertheless, the start of the new year finds the housing market slowing down, particularly considering that the number of building permits, indicative of future construction, has fallen the past two months.
The prices producers receive for goods and services, as measured by the Producer Price Index (PPI), advanced 0.1% in January, following a 0.2% decrease in December. As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the increase in producer prices is attributable to a 0.5% advance in prices for services, which offset a 0.7% drop in the prices for goods. Looking at trends in this segment of the economy, producer prices are down 0.2% compared to January 2015, marking the 12th straight year-over-year decline. As an indicator of inflationary trends, downward movement in producer prices may lead the Federal Open Market Committee to hold off on further interest rate increases for the time being.
Impacted by falling energy prices, consumer prices for goods and services remained relatively flat in January, according to the latest Consumer Price Index. On a more positive note, the CPI increased 1.4% over the last 12 months, and the index, less food and energy, is up 0.3% for the month. The increase (less food and energy) was broad-based, with most of the major components rising, but increases in the indexes for shelter and medical care were the largest contributors. This report may imply that inflation is trending upward, but the strong dollar and declining energy prices have kept inflation in check. The CPI, coupled with the PPI, is keeping inflation below the Fed’s target rate of 2.0%, lending credence to the view that interest rates will remain the same for the near term.
The Federal Reserve puts out a monthly index of industrial production, which attempts to demonstrate the overall production of factories, mines, and utilities. For January, industrial production increased 0.9%, following a 0.7% drop in December. The index for utilities jumped 5.4%, while demand for heating moved up markedly after having been suppressed by unseasonably warm weather in December. Manufacturing output increased 0.5% in January and was 1.2% above its year-earlier level. Mining production was unchanged following four months of declines that averaged about 1.5% per month. In addition, capacity utilization for the industrial sector increased 0.7 percentage points in January to 77.1%, a rate that, while improving, is still 2.9 percentage points below its long-run (1972 to 2015) average.
The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® for the U.S. declined 0.2% in January following a 0.3% decrease in December. According to the report, January’s decline was driven primarily by large declines in stock prices and further weakness in initial claims for unemployment insurance. However, the report further states that despite back-to-back monthly declines, the index doesn’t signal a significant increase in the risk of recession, and its six-month growth rate remains consistent with a modest economic expansion through early 2016.
For the week ended February 13, there were 262,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance, a decrease of 7,000 from the prior week’s unrevised level of 269,000. For the week ended February 6, the advance number for continuing unemployment insurance claims was 2,273,000, an increase of 30,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.7% for the week ended February 6, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week’s unrevised rate.

Eye on the Week AheadSeveral important reports that provide a fairly significant gauge of the economy are highlighted this week, including information on new and existing home sales, orders for durable goods, consumer spending, and the latest GDP figures.

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MARKET WEEK: FEBRUARY 8, 2016

2/8/2016
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The Markets (as of market close February 5, 2016)

Following a labor report that showed job growth slowed in January, stocks declined after making some positive headway the prior week. A selloff of tech stocks brought the Nasdaq down 5.44% with the Russell 2000 following close behind, falling almost 5% by week’s end. The Dow lost over 261 points to close down 1.59%, while the S&P 500 fell over 3.0%.
The price of crude oil (WTI) continued to fluctuate, closing at $31.00 a barrel, down $2.74 from the prior week’s closing price. The price of gold (COMEX) increased again, selling at $1,174.10 by late Friday afternoon, up from the prior week’s closing price of $1,118.39. The national average retail regular gasoline price decreased for the fifth week in a row to $1.822 per gallon on February 1, 2016, $0.034 below the prior week’s price and $0.246 under a year ago.

​Last Week’s Headlines
The employment sector continued to show strength, although at a somewhat slower pace. Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 151,000 in January and the unemployment rate was little changed at 4.9%, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job gains occurred in several industries, led by retail trade, food services and drinking places, health care, and manufacturing. Employment declined in private educational services, transportation and warehousing, and mining. January’s employment gains trailed the revised payroll numbers for December (262,000) and November (280,000). The employment participation rate rose 0.1% to 62.7%, the average workweek rose to 34.6 hours from a long-standing run at 34.5 hours, and average hourly earnings increased 12 cents to $25.39. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.5%. This report, while favorable in general, does show some slowing in the employment sector, which may weigh on the Fed’s decision whether to raise interest rates further at its March meeting.
While the latest figures on personal income proved not as robust as those reported in November, December turned out to be another good month for consumers. According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, personal income increased $42.5 billion, or 0.3%, and disposable personal income (DPI), which is the difference between personal income and personal current taxes, increased $37.8 billion, or 0.3%, in December. Consumers saved a little more than they spent in December as personal consumption expenditures (PCE) decreased $0.7 billion, or less than 0.1%. In November, personal income increased $44.3 billion, or 0.3%; DPI increased $33.4 billion, or 0.2%; and PCE increased $59.4 billion, or 0.5%, based on revised estimates. Wages and salaries increased $13.1 billion in December, compared with an increase of $37.9 billion in November. Personal current taxes increased $4.8 billion in December, compared with an increase of $10.9 billion in November.
As expected, the trade deficit widened in December to $43.4 billion, up $1.1 billion from November’s revised figures. December exports were $181.5 billion, $0.5 billion less than November exports. December imports were $224.9 billion, up $0.6 billion from November.
The manufacturing sector is contracting. The Institute for Supply Management® Report on Business® for January indicates that economic activity in the manufacturing sector contracted for the fourth consecutive month, as the January PMI came in at 48.2%, an increase of 0.2 percentage points from the seasonally adjusted December reading of 48.0%. A reading of 50% or lower indicates contraction. Weak foreign demand due to a stronger dollar and low oil prices continue to hinder manufacturing. On the plus side of the report, the New Orders Index registered 51.5%, an increase of 2.7 percentage points from the 48.8% reading in December.
Economic activity in the non-manufacturing (service) sector grew in January, but at a slower pace than the prior month, as the ISM Non-Manufacturing Index registered 53.5%–2.3 percentage points lower than the seasonally adjusted December reading of 55.8%. As with the Manufacturing Index, a reading above 50% indicates growth. Several other ISM indexes experienced slower growth, including the Business Activity Index (-5.6 percentage points), the New Orders Index (-2.4 percentage points), the Employment Index (-4.2 percentage points), the Inventories Index (-1.5 percentage points), and the Prices Index (-4.6 percentage points). Generally, this report hints at a noticeable first-quarter slowdown in the non-manufacturing (services) sector, which represents about 80% of the economy.
The Census Bureau report on construction spending for December was at a seasonally adjusted rate of $1,116.6 billion, or 0.1%, above the revised November estimate. The December figure is 8.2% above the December 2014 estimate. While spending on residential construction increased 0.9%, nonresidential construction fell a steep 2.1% below the revised November estimate. This report reflects a cutback in business spending, probably due to a lack of confidence in the economy.
Continuing a somewhat disturbing trend, factory orders in December decreased $13.5 billion, or 2.9%, following a 0.7% decrease in November. Shipments and unfilled orders are also down, while inventories increased $1.0 billion, or 0.2%. Orders for durable goods (expected to last at least three years) and nondurable goods sank 5.0% and 0.8%, respectively, in December. Weak global demand, particular in the energy sector, has contributed to the ongoing slowdown in the factory sector.
Generally, it cost more to produce less in the fourth quarter, according to the latest information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nonfarm business sector labor productivity, or output per hour, decreased at a 3.0% annual rate during the fourth quarter of 2015, as output increased 0.1% and hours worked increased 3.3%. From the fourth quarter of 2014 to the fourth quarter of 2015, productivity increased 0.3%. Unit labor costs (measured as the ratio between hourly compensation and labor productivity) increased 4.5% in the fourth quarter and 2.8% over the last four quarters. Increases in hourly compensation tend to increase unit labor costs, and increases in output per hour tend to reduce them.
For the week ended January 30, there were 285,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance, an increase of 8,000 from the prior week’s revised total. For the week ended January 23, the advance number for continuing unemployment insurance claims was 2,255,000, a decrease of 18,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate remained at 1.7% for the week ended January 23.

Eye on the Week Ahead
The budget deficit increased in December, and this week’s Treasury report may reveal additional budget deficit expansion four months into the government’s 2016 fiscal year. The week closes with a report on retail sales for January. This report is an important indicator of consumer spending trends, as retail sales account for about one-half of total consumer spending.
Data sources: News items are based on reports from multiple commonly available international news sources (i.e. wire services) and are independently verified when necessary with secondary sources such as government agencies, corporate press releases, or trade organizations. Market data: Based on data reported in WSJ Market Data Center (indexes); U.S. Treasury (Treasury yields); U.S. Energy Information Administration/Bloomberg.com Market Data (oil spot price, WTI Cushing, OK); www.goldprice.org (spot gold/silver); Oanda/FX Street (currency exchange rates). All information is based on sources deemed reliable, but no warranty or guarantee is made as to its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed herein constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any securities, and should not be relied on as financial advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a market-value weighted index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The Russell 2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2,000 U.S. small-cap common stocks. The Global Dow is an equally weighted index of 150 widely traded blue-chip common stocks worldwide. Market indices listed are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment.

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ANNUAL MARKET REVIEW 2015

1/6/2016
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Overview
Volatility may best describe the equities markets for the majority of 2015, as they were impacted by economic stress in China and Greece, coupled with underwhelming corporate earnings reports, falling oil prices, and terrorist attacks here and abroad. While some economic sectors, such as housing and labor, offered favorable news, others, including exports and wages, showed little in the way of positive movement. Nevertheless, despite inflation running below the Fed’s target rate of 2.0%, there were enough signs of overall economic growth to prompt the Federal Open Market Committee to raise interest rates in December for the first time since 2006.
Of the indexes listed here, only the Nasdaq posted a year-on-year gain. Not even a fourth quarter rally could bring the other indexes into positive territory for the year. Nevertheless, the fourth quarter saw gains in large caps as the S&P 500 finished up 6.45%, while the Dow closed the quarter up 7.0%. Even the Global Dow gained a little over 4.0% for the quarter.
U.S. Treasuries saw prices fall during the fourth quarter as the yield on 10-year Treasury bonds jumped 22 basis points for the quarter. Oil prices (WTI) continued to fall, dropping from $46.36 per barrel at the end of the third quarter to $37.07 per barrel at the end of the fourth quarter. Gold, meanwhile, also felt the effects of the global economy, finishing the fourth quarter at roughly $1,060.50 an ounce compared to $1,114.50 an ounce at the end of the prior quarter. Finally, not all falling values are necessarily bad, as the average retail price of a gallon of regular gasoline fell $0.29 to $2.034 at the end of the quarter.

​Snapshot 2015
The Markets
Equities: It was a roller coaster ride in the equities markets in 2015. After a lackluster start, domestic equities spent much of the year riding a wave of peaks and valleys, to ultimately close the year short of where they started. Anticipation of a federal interest rate hike influenced the markets, as did global economies, particularly in China and Greece. Favorable labor and unemployment figures pushed the markets higher, only to see them recede with news of poor exports, stagnant inflation, mediocre earnings reports, and falling oil prices. While the close of 2014 saw several of the major indexes listed here post double-digit returns, 2015 found only the Nasdaq finishing ahead of its 2014 close–up 5.73%. The Dow lost 2.2% (the first time it posted negative annual returns since 2008), while the S&P 500 fell 0.7% following three straight years of double-digit gains. The Russell 2000 and the Global Dow took the biggest year-on-year hits, finishing down 5.71% and 6.60%, respectively.
Bonds: Long-term bond yields ticked up only moderately at the close of 2015, confounding those who expected the yield on 10-year Treasuries to rise toward 3.0% by the end of the year, especially with the interest rate increase announced by the Fed early in December. Instead, the yield on 10-year Treasuries closed 2015 at 2.26% compared to the 2014 closing yield of 2.17%. A strong dollar, continued uncertainty surrounding the global economy, and low inflation made Treasury debt an appealing investment choice, keeping bond prices up and yields down.
Oil: As oil producing countries flooded the market, oil prices remained below $40 a barrel. While falling energy stocks had an effect on the stock market, the plunge in oil prices helped fatten consumers’ wallets, with prices at the pump hovering around $2 a gallon for regular gasoline.
Currencies: Falling oil prices coupled, with the expectation of higher interest rates, helped boost the U.S. dollar, which continued to rise over the course of the year. The U.S. Dollar Index, a measure of the dollar relative to the currencies of most U.S. major trading partners, gained about 9% over its December 31, 2014, closing value. The dollar also benefitted from interest rates abroad, some of which were even lower than those for Treasuries. The strong dollar raised new concerns that countries and foreign corporations hurt by lower oil prices might have trouble repaying debt in currencies that were substantially weaker against the U.S. dollar.
Gold:With inflation hovering below 2.0%, gold, historically seen as a hedge against inflation, saw its value drop throughout the year, posting its third consecutive annual loss. The precious metal ended the year at roughly $1,060.50–about $120 below its value at the close of 2014.
The Economy
Employment: Improvement in the U.S. job market was slow but steady. The unemployment rate ended the year at 5.0%, lower than the 5.6% rate at the close of 2014. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the past 12 months the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons were down by 0.8% and 1.1 million, respectively. Over the prior 12 months, total nonfarm payroll employment averaged a monthly gain of 237,000, adding 2.3 million jobs. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.3% to about $25.25 per hour.
GDP: Challenging weather, a strengthening dollar, and lower oil prices slowed growth in the first quarter of 2015 to 0.6%. Economic growth in the second quarter expanded at an annual rate of 3.9% on the strength of increased personal spending. However, the latest figures for the third quarter show growth is once again slowing down to an annual rate of 2.0%, as consumer and business spending figures were revised downward.
Inflation: Inflation remained below the Fed’s stated target rate of 2.0%, but indications are that it is expanding, albeit at a very slow pace. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the all items index rose 0.5% from November 2014 to November 2015–the largest 12-month increase since the 12-month period ended December 2014. The food index rose 1.3% over the span, while the energy index declined 14.7%. The index for all items less food and energy rose 2.0%–its largest 12-month increase since the 12 months ended May 2014. The core personal consumption expenditures price index, relied upon by the Fed as an important indicator of inflationary trends, sat at 1.3% for the year, giving no clear indication that it will approach the Fed’s 2.0% target rate.
Housing: The housing market had been relatively strong for much of the year. However, the latest figures from the National Association of Realtors® show that sales of existing homes fell in November by 10.5% compared to October, and the year-on-year rate of existing home sales is -3.8%–the first such decrease since September 2014. The median price for existing homes in November was $220,300, which is 6.3% above November 2014. The number of new home sales in November 2015 increased 9.1% compared to the number of sales in November 2014. The median sales price of new houses sold in November 2015 was $305,000 and the average sales price was $374,900, compared to $302,700 and $358,800, respectively, in November 2014.
Manufacturing: Manufacturing and industrial production have not been consistently strong sectors this year. The Federal Reserve’s monthly index of industrial production was down 1.2% from November 2014 to November 2015. In addition, the latest report from the Census Bureau shows orders for all durable goods in the first 11 months of 2015 fell 3.7% on the year.
Imports and exports: For the year, the goods and services deficit increased $22.2 billion, or 5.3%, from the same period in 2014. Exports decreased $84.7 billion, or 4.3%. Imports decreased $62.5 billion, or 2.6%. Low prices for oil held down imports, while the continued strength of the dollar was a key factor in the year’s sluggish exports sector leading to weak demand abroad.
International markets: For most of 2015, economic problems overseas impacted the United States and contributed to the Fed’s caution with raising interest rates. Though the European Central Bank extended its program of buying bonds, cut a key interest rate to -0.2%, and passed measures intended to pressure banks to lend more, the eurozone economy grew at an annual rate of just 1.2%, with unemployment sitting at 10.7% and inflation at an annual rate of only 0.1%. Greece began the year electing an anti-austerity prime minister, saw its economy contract to the point where its banks and stock markets were forced to shut down, then agreed to more intense austerity measures to help support its economy. China had experienced an average annual growth rate of 10%. However, 2015 saw China’s economy grow at a much slower rate of about 7%, prompting several government-backed measures intended to support growth.
Eye on the Year Ahead
As the year came to a close, the Fed finally raised interest rates based on some favorable economic news, particularly on the labor front and, to a somewhat lesser extent, in the housing market. The Fed is expected to consider three to four more rate increases during 2016. However, falling oil prices, inflationary trends that have been less than robust, poor manufacturing and production numbers, and a glaring weakness in exports could impact whether additional rate hikes are in the offing for 2016.
Data sources: Economic: Based on data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (unemployment, inflation); U.S. Department of Commerce (GDP, corporate profits, retail sales, housing); S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Index (home prices); Institute for Supply Management (manufacturing/services). Performance: Based on data reported in WSJ Market Data Center (indexes); U.S. Treasury (Treasury yields); U.S. Energy Information Administration/Bloomberg.com Market Data (oil spot price, WTI Cushing, OK); www.goldprice.org (spot gold/silver); Oanda/FX Street (currency exchange rates). All information is based on sources deemed reliable, but no warranty or guarantee is made as to its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed herein constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any securities, and should not be relied on as financial advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a market-value weighted index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The Russell 2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2,000 U.S. small-cap common stocks. The Global Dow is an equally weighted index of 150 widely traded blue-chip common stocks worldwide. Market indices listed are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment.

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MARKET WEEK: JANUARY 4, 2016

1/6/2016
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The Markets (as of market close January 1, 2016)
As the year came to a close, the final week of 2015 saw each of the indexes listed here finish in negative territory compared to the prior week. Since the week closed on a holiday, the closing values for 2015 are in fact the closing values for the week ending January 1, 2016, so there is no year-to-date change.
The price of gold (COMEX) fell, selling at $1,060.50 by late Thursday afternoon, down from $1,075.80 a week earlier. Crude oil (WTI) prices also dropped, selling at $37.07 per barrel by week’s end. The national average retail regular gasoline price increased for the first time in several weeks to $2.034 per gallon on December 28, 2015, $0.008 above the previous week’s price but $0.265 under a year ago.

​Last Week’s Headlines
The Census Bureau’s advance report on U.S. international trade in goods for November revealed that the seasonally adjusted deficit decreased from $61.3 billion in October to $60.5 billion in November. Compared to October, the advance numbers showed exports of goods were down about 2.0%, while imports of goods fell roughly 1.8%.
Consumer confidence bounced back in December following November’s moderate decline. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® stands at 96.5, up from 92.6 in November. The Present Situation Index increased from 110.9 last month to 115.3 in December, while the Expectations Index improved to 83.9 from 80.4 in November. Survey respondents expressed optimism about the labor market, although consumers’ expectations about their financial outlook were mixed.
Rising prices and limited inventory continued to slow pending home sales (those under contract for sale) in November, according to the latest Pending Home Sales Index from the National Association of Realtors®. The index for November fell 0.9% from October–the third time in four months the index has declined. However, the index is 2.7% ahead of November 2014.
For the week ended December 26, there were 287,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance, an increase of 20,000 from the prior week’s revised total. For the week ended December 19, the advance number for continuing unemployment insurance claims was 2,198,000, an increase of 3,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.6% for the week ended December 19.
Eye on the Week Ahead
The first full week of the new year will reveal how last year ended in the manufacturing sector. Also of note will be the latest Bureau of Economic Analysis report on international trade for November.
Data sources: News items are based on reports from multiple commonly available international news sources (i.e. wire services) and are independently verified when necessary with secondary sources such as government agencies, corporate press releases, or trade organizations. Market data: Based on data reported in WSJ Market Data Center (indexes); U.S. Treasury (Treasury yields); U.S. Energy Information Administration/Bloomberg.com Market Data (oil spot price, WTI Cushing, OK); www.goldprice.org (spot gold/silver); Oanda/FX Street (currency exchange rates). All information is based on sources deemed reliable, but no warranty or guarantee is made as to its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed herein constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any securities, and should not be relied on as financial advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a market-value weighted index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The Russell 2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2,000 U.S. small-cap common stocks. The Global Dow is an equally weighted index of 150 widely traded blue-chip common stocks worldwide. Market indices listed are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment.

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