Most of the major benchmark equity indexes posted gains for the seventh consecutive week. Only the Global Dow lagged behind. Utilities and information technology shares performed well last week, while oil and energy shares did not fare quite so favorably. International trade once again was in the news as negotiations between the United States and China continue with no apparent resolution in sight. Investors will be keeping their eyes on the rhetoric from both of the global economic giants as the deadline for the tariff truce draws nearer. The Nasdaq led the way last week, followed by the Russell 2000, which continued to perform best since the beginning of the year.
LAST WEEK’S ECONOMIC HEADLINES
- Some government agencies are playing catch-up as they post information not available during the shutdown. Such is the case with the release of the international trade deficit, which is for November. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the goods and services deficit was $49.3 billion, down $6.4 billion from October. November exports were $209.9 billion, $1.3 billion less than October exports. November imports were $259.2 billion, $7.7 billion less than October imports. The November decrease in the goods and services deficit reflected a decrease in the goods deficit of $6.7 billion to $71.6 billion and a decrease in the services surplus of $0.3 billion to $22.3 billion. Year-to-date, the goods and services deficit increased $51.9 billion, or 10.4%, from the same period in 2017. Exports increased $157.1 billion, or 7.3%. Imports increased $208.9 billion, or 7.9%.
- Economic activity in the services sector slowed in January. According to the Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®, the non-manufacturing index fell 1.3% from its December reading. Business activity and new orders also regressed, while employment and prices increased. Survey respondents expressed concern about the impacts of the government shutdown, but remained generally optimistic about overall business conditions.
- For the week ended February 2, there were 234,000 new claims for unemployment insurance, a decrease of 19,000 from the previous week’s level. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims remained at 1.2% for the week ended January 26. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended January 26 was 1,736,000, a decrease of 42,000 from the prior week’s level, which was revised down by 4,000.
EYE ON THE WEEK AHEAD
More economic information should be forthcoming as government agencies try to catch up following the shutdown. Inflation indicators are front and center this week with reports on the Consumer Price Index and the retail sales report. Also, the Treasury budget report should be out this week, which should be for last December.
Remember recent volatility is occurring due to emotional reactions to short term news items as well as computerized trading which also tends to create short term volatility. At BWFA we remain focused on clients’ particular needs and the long term strategic outlook when identifying customized and sound investment choices for our clients.
Have a great week!