Market Commentary - Month of February 2015
“It still holds true that man is most uniquely human when he turns obstacles into opportunities.”
– Eric Hoffer
If you want to leave some of your IRA to your children, a Roth IRA conversion may be a great idea: the IRA they inherit could realize further tax-free growth.
It begins and ends with E yet it may contain only one letter. What is it?
Last month’s riddle:
Last month’s answer:
A baseball game.
THE MONTH IN BRIEF
DOMESTIC ECONOMIC HEALTH
While consumer confidence was rising, consumer spending abruptly tailed off. Commerce Department data showed it retreating 0.3% in December. Retail sales also dropped 0.9% in the same month after two months of solid gains.2,3
On the upside, personal wages grew 0.3% in December, and the federal government announced that Q4 personal spending had advanced 4.3%, becoming the major factor in the 2.6% initial estimate of Q4 GDP released in late January.2,4
The latest Labor Department report showed more improvement. December saw the jobless rate dip another 0.2% to 5.6%; the overall U-6 rate, which measures the marginally employed as well as the unemployed, also decreased to 11.2%. Thanks to 252,000 more Americans finding employment in December, 2014 became the nation’s best year for hiring since 2000.5
Looking at another key economic barometer, we see remarkably little inflation pressure stateside. The Consumer Price Index dipped 0.4% in December following a 0.3% retreat in November. That meant the country experienced just 0.8% inflation for 2014. The core CPI was flat in December, so its year-over-year change was 1.6%. As for the Producer Price Index, it pulled back 0.3% for December and rose just 1.1% for 2014; the core PPI rose 0.3% for December, taking its 2014 gain to 2.1%.3
December saw a 0.3% rise in manufacturing production and a 0.1% dip in industrial output according to the Federal Reserve, but durable goods orders slipped 3.4% (they were also down 2.1% in November). The twin PMIs maintained by the Institute for Supply Management disappointed Wall Street: ISM’s December service sector PMI came in 3.1 points lower at 56.2, and its manufacturing PMI read 55.1 for December and 53.5 for January. These readings were solid, but decidedly beneath previous editions.2,3
In the face of this mixed bag of indicators, the Fed sounded pretty bullish. Its latest policy statement (January 28) noted the economy expanding “at a solid pace” as opposed to the “moderate pace” noted in prior Federal Open Market Committee reflections. Nothing in the statement gave off impressions that the Fed would delay a rate hike until 2016.6
GLOBAL ECONOMIC HEALTH
The ECB had to do something; annualized eurozone inflation reached -0.2% in December, the European Commission forecasts it at -0.6% for January, and it is projected to stay at +0.5% or less through 2020. For 2015, the eurozone economy is expected to expand only 1.2%; the euro area jobless rate was 11.4% in December, and that was a 2-year low.7,8
Did China’s economy rev up a bit in January? No. January’s “official” China factory PMI dipped 0.3 points to 49.8 (meaning contraction) and its “official” service sector PMI dropped 0.4 points to 53.7. The HSBC/Markit China PMI stayed below 50 for another month (49.7). South Korea’s key manufacturing PMI had improved 1.5 points to 51.1 in December, and Indonesia’s rose 0.9 points to 48.5; India’s factory PMI fell 1.6 points to 52.9.9
January saw the MSCI World Index fall 1.88%; the MSCI Emerging Markets Index gained 0.55%. The month saw losses of 3.32% for the Dow Jones Americas index, 1.76% for the Europe Dow and 2.41% for the Global Dow; the Asia Dow, on the other hand, improved 2.73%.1,10
Gold had a tremendous month, with futures rising 8.38% on the COMEX to settle at $1,279.20 on January 30. Its ascent was mirrored by a 9.24% climb for silver, with an ounce of that commodity being worth $17.21 at January’s end. Platinum rose 2.38% on the month; copper dropped 10.91%. The U.S. Dollar Index surged north another 5.02% in January to end the month at 94.80.11,12
Apart from the greenback and precious metals, the commodities sector didn’t really offer much to cheer about. Light sweet crude fell further in New York: a barrel was worth just $48.24 on the NYMEX when the month ended. January also saw heating oil futures sink another 7.43% and natural gas futures give up another 8.20%. Crops mostly descended as well, with cotton losing 1.51%, coffee 3.80%, cocoa 8.12%, soybeans 5.79%, corn 7.23% and wheat 15.27%. It wasn’t all bad, as unleaded gasoline did rise 0.61% and sugar gained 1.79%.11
New home sales soared in December: they were up 11.6% according to the Census Bureau, coming off a (revised) 6.7% drop in November. Existing home sales improved slightly in December as well – the National Association of Realtors found them rising 2.4%, much better than the (revised) 6.3% fall of a month before. NAR’s pending home sales index, on the other hand, fell 3.7% for December after a November gain of 0.6%.2,3
As for home prices, NAR said that the national median resale price was $208,500 in December – the best median price in six years, and up 5.8% from a year earlier. That year-over-year improvement surpassed the 4.3% gain in the 20-city Case-Shiller home price index for December.2,15
As for new projects, the Census Bureau noted a 1.9% decline in applications for building permits in December, but a 4.4% increase in groundbreaking which put total U.S. housing starts over 1 million for the first time since 2005. Last year saw an 8.8% increase in housing starts.15,16
LOOKING BACK…LOOKING FORWARD
Indices are unmanaged, do not incur fees or expenses, and cannot be invested into directly. These returns do not include dividends. 10-year TIPS real yield = projected return at maturity given expected inflation.
Is downside risk increasing as we get into February? Could a correction happen? Market analysts aren’t ruling it out, as U.S. stocks didn’t especially get a sustained lift from the latest Fed policy statement or the ECB’s announcement of its stimulus. Still, what happens in January does not necessarily foretell what will happen during the rest of the year. Pessimists should note that January 2014 was even worse for the blue chips: the Dow lost more than 5%, but it gained more than 13% over the ensuing 11 months. Oil prices have been rebounding of late; earnings have been decent. Those two factors alone may give investors a bit more optimism as February unfolds.20
UPCOMING ECONOMIC RELEASES: Here is what is on tap for the rest of February: the January ISM service sector PMI and ADP employment change report (2/4), the January Challenger job-cut report (2/5), the Labor Department’s January jobs report (2/6), January wholesale inventories (2/10), December business inventories and January retail sales (2/12), February’s preliminary consumer sentiment index from the University of Michigan (2/13), January’s PPI, industrial output, housing starts and building permits and the January 28 Fed policy meeting minutes (2/18), the Conference Board’s latest leading indicator index (2/19), January existing home sales (2/23), the Conference Board’s February consumer confidence index and the December Case-Shiller home price index (2/24), January new home sales (2/25), January’s CPI and hard goods orders (2/26), and then the federal government’s second estimate of Q4 GDP, January pending home sales and the University of Michigan’s final February consumer sentiment index (2/27).
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This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. MarketingPro, Inc. is not affiliated with any broker or brokerage firm that may be providing this information to you. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is not a solicitation or recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted index of 30 actively traded blue-chip stocks. The NASDAQ Composite Index is an unmanaged, market-weighted index of all over-the-counter common stocks traded on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation System. The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. The Russell 2000 Index measures the performance of the small-cap segment of the U.S. equity universe. The CBOE Volatility Index® (VIX®) is a key measure of market expectations of near-term volatility conveyed by S&P 500 stock index option prices. NYSE Group, Inc. (NYSE:NYX) operates two securities exchanges: the New York Stock Exchange (the “NYSE”) and NYSE Arca (formerly known as the Archipelago Exchange, or ArcaEx®, and the Pacific Exchange). NYSE Group is a leading provider of securities listing, trading and market data products and services. The New York Mercantile Exchange, Inc. (NYMEX) is the world's largest physical commodity futures exchange and the preeminent trading forum for energy and precious metals, with trading conducted through two divisions – the NYMEX Division, home to the energy, platinum, and palladium markets, and the COMEX Division, on which all other metals trade. The FTSE 100 Index is a share index of the 100 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange with the highest market capitalization. The CAC-40 Index is a narrow-based, modified capitalization-weighted index of 40 companies listed on the Paris Bourse. The DAX 30 is a Blue Chip stock market index consisting of the 30 major German companies trading on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The FTSE MIB (Milano Italia Borsa) is the benchmark stock market index for the Borsa Italiana, the Italian national stock exchange. The STOXX Europe 600 Index is derived from the STOXX Europe Total Market Index (TMI) and is a subset of the STOXX Global 1800 Index. The BSE SENSEX (Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index), also-called the BSE 30 (BOMBAY STOCK EXCHANGE) or simply the SENSEX, is a free-float market capitalization-weighted stock market index of 30 well-established and financially sound companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). The Hang Seng Index is a freefloat-adjusted market capitalization-weighted stock market index that is the main indicator of the overall market performance in Hong Kong. Nikkei 225 (Ticker: ^N225) is a stock market index for the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE). The Nikkei average is the most watched index of Asian stocks. The S&P/ASX 200 measures the performance of the 200 largest index-eligible stocks listed on the ASX (Australian Stock Exchange) by float-adjusted market capitalization. The SSE Composite Index is an index of all stocks (A shares and B shares) that are traded at the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The Bovespa Index is a gross total return index weighted by traded volume & is comprised of the most liquid stocks traded on the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange. The RTS Index (abbreviated: RTSI, Russian: Индекс РТС) is a free-float capitalization-weighted index of 50 Russian stocks traded on the Moscow Exchange. The Mexican IPC index (Indice de Precios y Cotizaciones) is a major stock market index which tracks the performance of leading companies listed on the Mexican Stock Exchange. The MSCI World Index is a free-float weighted equity index that includes developed world markets, and does not include emerging markets. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a float-adjusted market capitalization index consisting of indices in more than 25 emerging economies. The Dow Jones Americas Index measures the Latin American equity markets by tracking 30 leading blue-chip companies in the region. The Europe Dow measures the European equity markets by tracking 30 leading blue-chip companies in the region. The Global Dow is a 150-stock index of corporations from around the world created by Dow Jones & Company. The Asia Dow measures the Asia equity markets by tracking 30 leading blue-chip companies in the region. The US Dollar Index measures the performance of the U.S. dollar against a basket of six currencies. Additional risks are associated with international investing, such as currency fluctuations, political and economic instability and differences in accounting standards. This material represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events, or a guarantee of future results. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Investments will fluctuate and when redeemed may be worth more or less than when originally invested. All economic and performance data is historical and not indicative of future results. Market indices discussed are unmanaged. Investors cannot invest in unmanaged indices. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional.
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