Volatility in the markets reigned last week as each of the indexes enjoyed gains early in the week, only to give most of them back by last week’s end. The Dow and S&P 500 closed last week only slightly ahead of their respective closing values from the previous week. While the small-cap NASDAQ finished the week up, it too gave back plenty of gains from earlier in the week. The equities markets could be in for a ride, both domestically and abroad, as the Fed and the Central Bank of Japan are scheduled to meet later this week.
The price of crude oil (WTI) closed at $43.19 a barrel last week, down from $45.71 per barrel the previous week. The price of gold (COMEX) also fell, closing at $1,313.20 by late Friday afternoon, down from the prior week’s price of $1,331.80.
Here at BWFA we will be monitoring the volatility but as you know we do not make long term investment decisions on those short term news driven changes, rather we access the fundamental value and relative strength of the investment choices and decisions made when investing or divesting of any investment.
Last Week’s Headlines
- Consumer prices rose slightly in August, facilitated by a small increase in the index less food and energy (the core index), which was the largest gain in that category since February. Prices for medical care, shelter, and clothing increased in August. Major energy component indexes were mixed. While it isn’t much, the increase in the Consumer Price Index for August shows some firming of inflationary pressure. However, price gains are still lagging compared to last August.
- Following increases in June and July, retail sales in August fell. A slowdown in consumer spending could impact the GDP for the quarter and the prospects of a Fed interest rate hike in September.
- The federal deficit grew to $107 billion in August, as total outlays ($338 billion) outpaced total receipts ($231 billion). For the fiscal year, which ends this month, the year-to-date deficit is $620.8 billion, compared to $530 billion over the same period last year.
- Industrial production decreased 0.4% in August after rising 0.6% in July. Manufacturing output also declined 0.4% in August, reversing its increase in July. Capacity utilization for the industrial sector decreased 0.4 percentage point in August to 75.5%, a rate that is 4.5 percentage points below its long-run (1972-2015) average.
- According to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, both import prices and export prices fell in August compared to July. U.S. import prices declined 0.2% in August, after ticking up 0.1% in July. The August downturn was driven by lower fuel prices. Prices for U.S. exports decreased 0.8% in August following a 0.2% increase in July. The drop in import prices is another indication of weak inflationary pressure.
- Consumers’ opinions of the economy this month haven’t changed from August, according to the University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers. The Index of Consumer Sentiment was 89.8 for September, the same as August. Consumers’ opinions of the current economic conditions regressed a bit in September. However, consumers remain reasonably optimistic about their future economic prospects.
Eye on the Week Ahead
The latest reports on the sales of new and existing homes hit the news this week. But the biggest event of the week is the FOMC meeting. Clearly a market-mover, speculation as to whether the Fed will increase interest rates in September has run the gamut from “no chance” to “definitely.” Even if the Committee holds off on hiking interest rates, investors will likely focus on comments from Committee members, particularly Chair Janet Yellen, as to the future of the current quantitative easing measures.