Investors swallowed modest losses last week as the stock market served up another disappointing performance. Benchmark indexes lost value, with the S&P 500 declining 1.2%, the Nasdaq pulling back 1.0%, and the Dow falling 0.9%. The Global Dow fell 0.8% and the Russell 2000 dipped 0.3%. Strong employment data seems to support the Fed’s plan to raise the federal funds rate quickly to help fight inflation, leaving investors to fret about the impact on economic growth.
Last Week’s Economic News
· There were 390,000 new jobs added in May, and the unemployment rate remained at 3.6% for the third straight month, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 6.0 million. Both the total number of unemployed and the unemployment rate are little different from their values in February 2020 (5.7 million and 3.5%, respectively), prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
· Manufacturing accelerated in May, but at a slower pace than in April. According to the S&P Global US Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index™ report, while operating conditions continued to improve, the rate of growth in the manufacturing sector eased to the softest since January as expansions in output, new orders, and stocks of purchases slowed. However, demand remained robust, with firms increasing their hiring activity and backlogs of work expanding. Nevertheless, business confidence slipped to the lowest level since October 2020, as supply constraints and inflationary pressures hampered growth. Price growth increased at its fastest rate in six months, with manufacturers passing on higher expenses to customers.
· The services sector also expanded in May, but at the slowest rate in four months, amid the slowest increase in new business since last September, as well as ongoing labor and supply constraints. Meanwhile, pressure on capacity continued to build as backlogs of work rose steeply again. In response, firms expanded their workforce numbers sharply.
· According to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover report, the number of job openings fell 455,000 in April to 11.4 million. The number of hires in April, at 6.6 million, was little changed from March. The number of layoffs and discharges edged down to a series low of 1.2 million. Over the 12 months ended in April, hires totaled 78.0 million and separations totaled 71.6 million, yielding a net employment gain of 6.4 million.
· The national average retail price for regular gasoline was $4.624 per gallon on May 30, $0.031 per gallon above the prior week’s price and $1.597 higher than a year ago. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration June 2 report on petroleum and other liquids, international oil and natural gas companies reported increased cash flow and higher reserves in 2021. These companies directed more of their financial resources toward debt reduction, dividend increases, and merger and acquisition opportunities than toward capital expenditures for production growth.
· For the week ended May 28, there were 200,000 new claims for unemployment insurance, a decrease of 11,000 from the previous week’s level.
Eye on the Week Ahead
The Consumer Price Index for May is available this week. Consumer prices rose 0.3% in April and were up 8.3% from April 2021. However, price inflation may be slowing, as the April increase was much lower than March’s 1.2% jump.
Have a nice week!