by Integrity Wealth Consultants
THE MONTH IN BRIEF
For most of November, the stock market was plagued by the same skepticism evident in October: the sense that corporate profits were declining and economic growth was slowing. Then Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell threw investors a line: he delivered a speech late in the month that soothed some of the considerable anxiety in the equity markets. Helped by Powell’s comments, the S&P 500 gained 1.79% on the month. While analysts sensed the bull market was in its late phase, consumers remained confident, enthusiastic participants in an apparently thriving economy. In a surprise, home sales picked up. Oil fell. The United Kingdom scheduled a critical parliamentary vote on the Brexit; China and the U.S. returned to the negotiating table regarding tariffs.
DOMESTIC ECONOMIC HEALTH
Speaking to the Economic Club of New York on November 28, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell delivered a rather dovish message: if interest rates were not quite where they should be, given the robust economy, they were at least close. In his view, rates were “just below the broad range of estimates of the level that would be neutral for the economy – that is, neither speeding up nor slowing down growth.” This was what Wall Street wanted to hear. The Dow Industrials rocketed north 618 points on the day. Just a month earlier, Powell had sounded distinctly hawkish, commenting that rates were a “long way from neutral.” 2,3
A trio of reports affirmed that the economy was indeed in good condition. Even after nine years of recovery from the Great Recession, the pace of hiring was still noteworthy: the Department of Labor’s October jobs report said that 250,000 net new jobs were created in the tenth month of the year. Annualized wage growth was at 3.1%, the best in ten years; headline unemployment was at 3.7%, and U-6 unemployment (unemployed and the marginally employed), at 7.4%. According to a Census Bureau report, the pace of retail sales improved 0.8% in October, quite a change from the 0.1% retreat a month before. Finally, as the month ended, the Department of Commerce announced a 0.6% rise in personal spending in October along with a 0.5% improvement for personal incomes. 4,5
Burgeoning economies go hand in hand with inflation, and the annualized gain in the Consumer Price Index did grow in October to 2.5% from the previous 2.3%. The yearly advance for the core CPI ticked down 0.1% to 2.1%, however. The federal government affirmed third-quarter growth at 3.5% in its third GDP estimate. 5
Consumer confidence indices retreated slightly from recent lofty heights. The University of Michigan’s monthly barometer ended the month at 97.5, down from 98.3; the Conference Board’s index declined to 135.7 from the prior 137.9. 5
Now to the factory front. The latest monthly reports from the Institute for Supply Management showed its manufacturing purchasing manager index at 57.7, below the 59.8 level it was at in September. ISM’s service sector PMI dipped 1.3 points last month to 60.3. While these were descents, both readings were quite strong. Hard goods orders declined 4.4% last month, but that mostly had to do with aircraft orders in the defense industry; minus defense and plane orders, they were simply flat for October. 5,6
Industrial output rose 0.1% in October, while manufacturing production advanced 0.3%. The Producer Price Index rose 0.6% in October; a 7.6% jump for wholesale gas prices was instrumental in the gain. The October PPI increase left yearly wholesale inflation at 2.9%. 5,7
* This blog was originally posted by Integrity Wealth Consultants.