Weekly Economic Update: February 22, 2021

The Markets (as of market close February 19, 2021)

Despite a late-week surge, stocks were mixed to lower last week. The Dow and the Global Dow closed ahead, while the Nasdaq, the Russell 2000, and the S&P 500 lost value. Treasury yields rose but the dollar, crude oil prices, and gold fell. Among the sectors, energy (3.1%) and financials (2.8%) led the way, while health care (-2.5%), utilities (-2.0%), information technology (-1.9%), and consumer staples (-1.1%) lost ground. Investors seem to be keeping their collective eyes on the prospects of more stimulus and signs of inflation and rising interest rates.

Last Week’s Economic News

  • Producer prices increased in January, the largest monthly advance since the index began in December 2009. Producer prices have risen 1.7% over the 12 months ended in January.
  • Sales at the retail level also advanced in January, climbing 5.3% for the month and 7.4% over January 2020 and all business categories saw sales increase.
  • According to the latest report from the Federal Reserve, industrial production rose in January.
  • Prices for U.S. imports increased 1.4% in January after rising 1.0% in December. The January increase was the largest since March 2012. Import prices rose 0.9% for the year ended in January, the first over-the-year increase since January 2020 and the largest 12-month advance since the index increased 3.4% from October 2017 to October 2018.
  • In January, the number of building permits increased 10.4% over December’s figure, and the number of building permits issued for single-family home construction was 3.8% above the December total. Housing starts slipped by 6.0% last month, and single-family housing starts plunged 12.2%. Housing completions also dropped, falling 2.3% in January. On the other hand, completions of single-family homes increased 10.0% last month.
  • Sales of existing homes rose in January for the second consecutive month. According to the latest report from the National Association of Realtors®, total existing home sales advanced 0.6% last month and are up 23.7% since January 2020. The median existing home price for all housing types in January was $303,900 ($309,800 in December), up 14.1% from January 2020. As the sales market continued to boom, existing inventory of homes for sale dwindled. In January, total housing inventory was down 1.9% from December and sits at a 1.9-month supply. Single-family home sales also increased in January, advancing 0.2% from December. The median existing single-family home price was $308,300 in January, down from December’s price of $314,300.
  • For the week ended February 13, there were 861,000 new claims for unemployment insurance, an increase of 13,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised up by 55,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims was 3.2% for the week ended February 6. For comparison, during the same period last year, there were 215,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance, and the insured unemployment claims rate was 1.2%.


Eye on the Week Ahead

The last week of February brings with it several important economic reports, led by the second estimate of the fourth-quarter gross domestic product. The initial, or advance, estimate saw the economy expand at an annual rate of 4.0%. Also out this week is the January issue of the personal income and outlays report. The personal consumption expenditures price index, an inflation indicator relied on by the Federal Reserve, showed that consumer prices rose 0.4% in December and advanced only 1.3% in 2020.
Have a nice week!





Robert G. Carpenter

President & CEO
Baltimore-Washington Financial Advisors