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to raise or not to raise?

Stocks closed out a bumpy week mixed, ending a three-week stretch of losses for the S&P 500 and NASDAQ. The Dow, however, extended losses for a fourth straight week for the first time since 2014.[i] For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.28%, the Dow lost 0.20%, the NASDAQ gained 1.10%, and the MSCI EAFE added 0.16%.[ii]

 Market reactions to the release of the April Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting minutes drove much of last week’s volatility. The official minutes showed that the Fed is moving away from its cautious stance and is open to raising interest rates as soon as June if data points to a solid second quarter.[iii] The unexpected hawkishness surprised many investors who weren’t expecting a hike until later this year.

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STOCKS DROP ON RETAIL EARNINGS

Stocks fell again for the third week in a row, driven lower by poor earnings reports from some major department store retailers. For the week, the S&P 500 lost 0.51%, the Dow fell 1.16%, the NASDAQ dropped 0.39%, and the MSCI EAFE lost 0.46%.[i]

Despite a growing economy and strong labor market, Americans didn’t shop as much as retailers expected last quarter, leaving some puzzled over the disconnect. Many retail giants posted dismal earning results for the first quarter. Among the problems: same-store sale declines, falling traffic, and an inability to predict apparel trends.[ii] Even industry insiders aren’t sure what’s going on, and some say that the retail doldrums are bringing back memories of the last recession. However, economists may have some answers.

Though consumers are doing much better than they did in the immediate post-recession recovery, some worry lingers, causing people to save more instead of spending. As the cost of housing and healthcare has increased, many Americans also don’t have as much discretionary money to spend.[iii]

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april Jobs Report Shows Slower Pace of Growth

Markets slumped for the third week as global concerns pressured investors again, and domestic data painted a modest picture. For the week, the S&P 500 lost 0.40%, the Dow fell 0.19%, the NASDAQ dropped 0.82%, and the MSCI EAFE fell 3.19%.[i]

April’s job report showed investors that the labor market continues to improve, adding 160,000 jobs last month. However, the gains were far below the consensus estimate of 200,000 new jobs. Though the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.0%, one estimate of the underemployment rate—measuring discouraged workers and part-timers who want full-time work—fell to 9.7% from 9.8% in March. That’s good news, because it means that workers who have struggled in the recovery may finally be catching up.[ii]

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