Stocks rebounded and long-term bond yields rose last week amid reports of China’s plans to cut tariffs on some American imports. The S&P 500, Dow, and Nasdaq reached all-time highs during the week, and global stocks soared. Also helping push stocks higher was a round of favorable fourth-quarter corporate earnings figures and a strong labor report. Investors seemed intent on locking in gains by last week’s end as stocks fell somewhat. Nevertheless, each of the benchmark indexes posted solid gains, led by the Nasdaq, which gained more than 4.0%. The large caps of both the Dow and S&P 500 advanced by 3.0% and 3.17%, respectively. The small caps of the Russell 2000, which had been reeling for the past several weeks, climbed 2.65%. Year-to-date, the Nasdaq is more than 6.0% ahead of its 2019 closing value. Only the Russell 2000 is slightly behind last year’s mark.
LAST WEEK’S ECONOMIC HEADLINES
- Job growth soared in January with the addition of 225,000 new jobs. The average monthly gain of new jobs added in 2019 was 175,000. Notable job gains last month occurred in construction, health care, as well as transportation and warehousing. The unemployment rate inched up 0.1 percentage point to 3.6%, representing 5.9 million unemployed persons (5.8 million unemployed in December). The labor force participation rate edged up by 0.2 percentage point to 63.4%. The employment-population ratio, at 61.2%, changed little over the month but was up by 0.5 percentage point over the year. In January, average hourly earnings rose by $0.07 to $28.44. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.1%. The average workweek was unchanged at 34.3 hours in January.
- January has gotten off to a slow start in the manufacturing sector, at least according to one purchasing managers’ survey. The latest IHS Markit U.S. Manufacturing PMI™ fell in January on the heels of a drop-in export orders. At the same time, the pace of growth for new orders was the softest in three months, prompting firms to exercise greater hesitancy in relation to hiring additional staff, with workforce numbers rising only slightly and at the slowest pace in four months.
- It is not uncommon for the leading manufacturing surveys to post conflicting results, as was the case in January. According to the Manufacturing ISM® Report on Business®, purchasing managers were more upbeat relative to the manufacturing sector in January, evidenced by a 3.1 percentage point increase in the purchasing managers’ index. Survey respondents also reported an increase in new orders, production, hiring, new export orders, and prices — not entirely in line with the survey results from Markit’s report.
- The services sector continued to expand in January, according to the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report on Business®. Survey respondents reported growth in business activity and new orders. On the other hand, hiring and prices each fell in January compared to December.
- The goods and services deficit were $48.9 billion in December, up $5.2 billion (11.9%) from $43.7 billion in November, revised. Exports ($209.6 billion) were up 0.8%, and imports ($258.5 billion) increased 2.7%. For 2019, the goods and services deficit decreased $10.9 billion, or 1.7%, from 2018. Exports decreased $1.5 billion, or 0.1%. Imports decreased $12.5 billion, or 0.4%. Reflective of the trade war, the United States deficit with China in 2019 decreased $73.9 billion to $345.6 billion.
- For the week ended February 1, there were 202,000 claims for unemployment insurance, a decrease of 15,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised up by 1,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims remained at 1.2% for the week ended January 25. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended January 25 was 1,751,000, an increase of 48,000 from the prior week’s level.
EYE ON THE WEEK AHEAD
The latest inflationary indicators are available this week, including January’s Consumer Price Index. The retail sales report will provide last month’s figures on consumer spending at retail and food services stores. The Federal Reserve releases its report on the government’s budget for January. The December government budget deficit was $13.3 billion.