Traders endured their second harrowing week in a row as the Federal Reserve continued to raise interest rates aggressively to combat inflation. New signs of slowing global growth and Russia’s threats to escalate the war in Ukraine provided more reasons for selloffs in the stock and bond markets by nervous investors. The Nasdaq, the Russell 2000, and the S&P 500 all sunk deeper into bear territory, and the Dow dropped to its lowest level of 2022. In a cruel twist of fate, bonds are not behaving like the port in the storm that investors tend to expect. Treasury prices have fallen and yields have risen to heights not seen in more than a decade. The dollar is exhibiting unusual strength against many foreign currencies, including the pound, the euro and the yen. Oil prices fell to their lowest levels since January.
Last Week’s Economic News
- As expected, the Federal Open Market Committee raised the target range for the federal funds rate 75 basis points to 3.00%-3.25%, and anticipates that ongoing increases will be appropriate. This is the highest level for the federal funds rate since 2008. According to Fed Chair, the Committee is committed to bringing inflation back down to their 2.0% goal. In continuing to push interest rates higher, the FOMC suggested that the economy is resilient, highlighting modest growth in spending and production, although August data showed that inflation continued to rise, albeit at a slower pace. According to Federal Reserve projections, officials see inflation rising to 5.4% this year. The federal funds rate is projected to increase to 4.4% by the end of this year and 4.6% by the close of 2023, which the Fed expects will bring inflation down to 2.8% by the end of next year.
- The number of housing starts increased by 12.2% in August over July’s total. However, building permits and housing completions slid lower, 10.0% and 5.4%, respectively. Building permits for single-family homes dipped 3.5% last month, while housing completions (0.4%) and housing starts (3.4%) increased.
- Sales of existing homes slid lower for the seventh consecutive month in August after declining 0.4%. Existing home sales are down 19.9% since August 2021. While mortgage rates have risen, existing home prices have not decreased at the same pace and remain somewhat elevated. Total housing inventory sat at a 3.2-month supply in August, unchanged from July. The median existing-home price for all housing types was $389,500 in August, higher than the August 2021 price of $361,500 but lower than the July price of $399,200. Sales of existing single-family homes also declined in August, down 0.9% from July and 19.2% below the August 2021 pace. The median existing single-family home price in August was $396,300, down from the July price of $405,800. The August decline was the second consecutive monthly decrease in the median sales price for existing single-family homes.
- The national average retail price for regular gasoline was $3.654 per gallon on September 19, $0.036 per gallon below the prior week’s price but $0.470 higher than a year ago. Also as of September 19, the East Coast price decreased $0.070 to $3.457 per gallon; the Gulf Coast price rose $0.031 to $3.157 per gallon; the Midwest price dropped $0.053 to $3.518 per gallon; the West Coast price increased $0.020 to $4.845 per gallon; and the Rocky Mountain price fell $0.012 to $3.877 per gallon. Residential heating oil prices averaged $3.173 per gallon on September 16, about $0.406 per gallon less than the prior week’s price.
- For the week ended September 17, there were 213,000 new claims for unemployment insurance, an increase of 5,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised down by 5,000. According to the Department of Labor, the advance rate for insured unemployment claims for the week ended September 10 was 1.0%, unchanged from the previous week’s rate. The advance number of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the week ended September 10 was 1,379,000, a decrease of 22,000 from the previous week’s level, which was revised down by 2,000.
Eye on the Week Ahead
There are plenty of important economic reports out during the last week of September. The final estimate of gross domestic product is out this week. It is not expected to change much from the prior estimate, which showed the economy retracted by 0.6% in the second quarter. The report on personal income and outlays for August is also available this week. The personal consumption expenditures price index, a key inflation indicator favored by the Federal Reserve, is included in this report.
Have a nice week!