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Market Commentary: Housing, Equity Markets Decline with Fed Expected to Hike Interest Rates

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Housing, Equity Markets Decline with Fed Expected to Hike Interest Rates

Equity markets have given back some of last year’s gains. Higher interest rates appear to be the major cause. As the Federal Reserve prepares for its first meeting of the year, investors have raised the odds of four interest rate hikes to approximately 70% from less than 30% one month ago (Figure 1). Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference after the meeting will likely be scrutinized for further guidance concerning interest rates.

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Market Commentary: U.S. Inflation Challenges Likely Linked to Robust Government Aid, Policy Changes

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: U.S. Inflation Challenges Likely Linked to Robust Government Aid, Policy Changes

Inflation remains a challenge to the U.S. economy. CPI rose 0.5% in December and surged 7.1% during the last year. It wasn’t all food and energy prices. Core inflation, which excludes those more volatile elements, increased 0.5% as well. As the bright blue line in Figure 1 shows, inflation has reaccelerated after dipping in the third quarter.

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Market Commentary: Job Surveys Show Conflicting Data; Fed May Shrink Balance Sheet Sooner Than Expected

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Job Surveys Show Conflicting Data; Fed May Shrink Balance Sheet Sooner Than Expected

The employment report released last week may have raised more questions than it answered. The establishment survey, which surveys businesses, showed only 199,000 jobs were created, missing expectations of 400,000 (Figure 1). The household survey gave a very different picture. Unemployment fell to 3.9%, employment rose by 650,000, and 170,000 people joined the labor force. The gap is partly reconciled by reports new businesses are being formed at a rapid pace and the usually more accurate establishment survey isn’t keeping up with the underlying changes.

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Market Commentary: S&P 500 Finishes Second Year of Pandemic 28.7% Higher Than It Started

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: S&P 500 Finishes Second Year of Pandemic 28.7% Higher Than It Started

2021 was a very happy year for U.S. stock investors. The S&P 500 finished the second year of a pandemic 28.7% higher than it started the year. Other countries did not do as well. The MSCI ACWI, which includes U.S. stocks, rose 18.5% in 2021. Those returns are still very impressive, but they lag behind the S&P 500. Bonds declined slightly. The Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond Index slipped 1.5% last year.

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Market Commentary: Inflation Continues to Challenge U.S. Economy as Key Indicators Rise

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Inflation Continues to Challenge U.S. Economy as Key Indicators Rise

The PCE price deflator confirmed inflation remains a strong challenge for the U.S. economy, rising 0.6% last month and 5.7% in the last 12 months. The annual increase was the highest since 1982. Core PCE inflation rose 0.5%, suggesting food and energy prices rose only slightly more than broad consumer prices (Figure 1).

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Market Commentary: Fed Addresses Inflation Concerns, Doubles its Pace to Reduce Bond Purchases

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Fed Addresses Inflation Concerns, Doubles its Pace to Reduce Bond Purchases

The Federal Reserve announced last week it would reduce its bond purchases faster than expected and signaled it intended to raise interest rates up to three times next year. The purchases were being reduced by $15 billion per month and will now accelerate to $30 billion per month, and the program to support the economy will end in March. One Fed governor announced a rate increase is possible for March.

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Market Commentary: Consumer Prices Continue to Climb; Annual Inflation Rises to 6.8%

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Consumer Prices Continue to Climb; Annual Inflation Rises to 6.8%

Consumer prices continued their rapid climb in the U.S. The Consumer Price Index surged 0.8% in November and is now 6.8% higher than one year ago. Big increases in food and energy prices accounted for nearly half the gains in the monthly and annual numbers. Core inflation, which excludes those more volatile elements, increased 0.5%. Even though the inflation rate was quite high, expectations for future inflation dropped slightly (Figure 1).

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Market Commentary: Jobs Data Sends Mixed Signals as Omicron Variant Begins to Appear in U.S.

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Jobs Data Sends Mixed Signals as Omicron Variant Begins to Appear in U.S.

The U.S. employment report continued to send contradictory signals as the fallout from the Omicron variant began to show up in data releases. The jobs report, based on research from a few weeks ago, indicated the U.S. only added 210,000 jobs compared to forecasted gains of 530,000. The household survey showed much stronger gains. Employment rose 1.1 million and unemployment dropped to 4.2%. The household report includes self-employed workers, which the employment report does not. Average hourly earnings grew 0.3% in October and have increased 4.8% in the last year.

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Market Commentary: Concerns About New Covid Variant Pushed Markets Lower; Core Inflation Rose 0.4%

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Concerns About New Covid Variant Pushed Markets Lower; Core Inflation Rose 0.4%

Concerns about the Omicron variant raised the risk of additional lockdowns and contributed to a decline of more than 2% in the S&P 500 on the day after Thanksgiving. The COVID-19 variant, first detected in South Africa, triggered travel restrictions in the U.S. and Europe.

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Market Commentary: Retail Sales Rise as Supply Chain Issues Ease Ahead of Christmas Season

Market Commentary

Market Commentary: Retail Sales Rise as Supply Chain Issues Ease Ahead of Christmas Season

U.S. retail sales surprised economists, rising 1.7% in October (Figure 1). Rising prices contributed 1% to the growth, and increased purchases generated the remaining 0.7%. Both the top-line and after-inflation rates were higher than pre-pandemic levels. Supply chain risks may have prompted consumers to kick off Christmas shopping early at internet retailers and stores selling electronics and appliances. Those two segments contributed to the strong results.

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