Stocks marked a second consecutive week of solid gains, led by the small caps of the Russell 2000 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq. The S&P 500 recorded seven consecutive days of gains through last Friday — the longest such streak since 2017. Once again, investors heard positive rhetoric relative to a trade deal with China. This time, the United States announced that a deal could be in the not-too-distant future. Long-term bond prices slipped, evidenced by the rise in the yield of 10-year Treasuries (bond prices move in the opposite direction of bond yields). Following the last two weeks of trading, each of the major stock market benchmark indexes have reached year-to-date gains comfortably exceeding their 2018 closing values. Oil prices continue to surge,while the price of gold (COMEX) fell again last week.
LAST WEEK’S ECONOMIC HEADLINES
- March saw 196,000 new jobs added, according to the latest information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment growth averaged 180,000 per month in the first quarter of 2019, compared with 223,000 per month in 2018. The unemployment rate remained at 3.8%. Notable job gains occurred in health care (49,000), professional and technical services (34,000), food services and drinking places (27,000), and construction (16,000). There were approximately 6.2 million unemployed in March, roughly the same total as February. The labor force participation rate was 63.0% in March (63.2% in February), and has changed very little over the prior 12 months. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.2%.
- In February, consumers tightened their wallets, possibly due to rising gas prices at the pumps. After climbing 0.7% in January, retail sales fell 0.2% in February, according to the latest report from the Census Bureau. Sales are up 2.2% from February 2018. Keeping overall sales afloat were strength in auto sales (0.7%) and gas stations (1.0%). Retail sales excluding auto and gas stations fell 0.6% in February.
- February was not a banner month for manufacturing. According to the latest report from the Census Bureau, durable goods orders decreased 1.6% for the month after three consecutive monthly increases.
- Transportation equipment, particularly aircraft orders, drove the decrease, falling 4.8% in February. Excluding transportation, durable goods orders inched up 0.1%. Shipments of manufactured durable goods, up three of the last four months, increased 0.2%, as did inventories, which increased 0.3%. Nondefense new orders for capital goods plummeted in February, dropping 6.3%.
- Purchasing managers reported marginal growth in the manufacturing sector, according to the Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business® for March. New orders, production, employment, and prices all increased in March. Deliveries and inventories decreased.
- The IHS Markit US Manufacturing PMI™ fell in March to its lowest level since June 2017. According to survey respondents, slower output kept manufacturing growth down. Total new orders expanded at a modest pace that was the slowest since June 2017. On the price front, input price inflation softened further to the slowest since August 2017.
- Economic activity in the non-manufacturing (services) sector slowed in March, according to the latest report from the Institute for Supply Management®. Survey respondents indicated that growth in business activity and new orders slowed in March. On the other hand, employment and prices increased last month.
EYE ON THE WEEK AHEAD