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Market Week: March 2, 2015

Key Dates/Data Releases

3/2: Personal income/spending, ISM manufacturing report, construction spending

3/3: Auto sales

3/4: ISM services report, Fed “beige book” report

3/5: Business productivity, factory orders, ECB meeting

3/6: Unemployment/payrolls, balance of trade

The Markets

Equities markets were mildly buoyed by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s congressional testimony and the grudging approval of Greece’s plans for qualifying for additional assistance. The S&P 500 and Russell 2000 hit new record highs during the week. However, both had backed away from those highs by week’s end after U.S. economic growth was shown to be weaker than expected.

Market/Index 2014 Close Prior Week As of 2/27 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 17823.07 18140.44 18132.70 -.04% 1.74%
Nasdaq 4736.05 4955.97 4963.53 .15% 4.80%
S&P 500 2058.90 2110.30 2104.50 -.27% 2.21%
Russell 2000 1204.70 1231.79 1233.37 .13% 2.38%
Global Dow 2501.66 2579.92 2581.89 .08% 3.21%
Fed. Funds .25% .25% .25% 0% 0%
10-year Treasuries 2.17% 2.13% 2.03% -10 bps -14 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Headlines

  • In her semiannual testimony before Congress, Federal Chair Janet Yellen continued to lay the groundwork for a rate increase later this year without spelling out when that might happen. Emphasizing continued domestic economic progress, she said that even once language about “patience” disappears from Fed statements, a rate increase would likely not occur for at least two meetings. If that language change occurred at the March meeting, that would mean an increase would be unlikely before June.
  • Two of Greece’s key creditors essentially told the financially stressed country to “put up or shut up.” The heads of the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank expressed skepticism about whether Greece would follow through on reforms proposed as part of a deal to obtain a four-month extension of the country’s current bailout agreement. The IMF said current descriptions of how taxes, pensions, privatization of key assets, and trade policies would be overhauled lacked a “clear commitment” to details about implementation.
  • U.S. economic growth in Q4 2014 was less robust than initially thought. The Bureau of Economic Analysis revised its estimate of gross domestic product downward from 2.6% to 2.2%, primarily because imports were higher and private inventory investment was less than in previous estimates.
  • A 0.1% increase in home prices in December contributed to a 4.5% year-over-year gain in the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Index. The western half of the country saw the strongest gains, while the Midwest and Northeast lagged.
  • Sales of existing homes in January slumped 4.9% to their lowest level in nine months, but the National Association of Realtors® said they were still 3.2% higher than last January. Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said new-home sales slumped 0.2% during the month.
  • Lower gas prices helped cut consumer inflation by 0.7% in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the biggest monthly decline since 2008, and left the annual inflation rate for the past 12 months at -0.1%.
  • Durable goods orders were up 2.8% in January; according to the Commerce Department, that was the biggest monthly increase since last July. New orders for nondefense capital equipment saw a slight 0.6% gain.
  • Rate cuts rather than increases were announced by China’s central bank over the weekend. The People’s Bank of China cut its benchmark one-year lending and deposit rates to 5.35% and 2.5% less than four months after previous cuts in November. The quarter-point cuts are a fresh attempt to stimulate a slowing economy.
  • The Federal Communications Commission voted to regulate Internet service as a public utility, much as telephone service is regulated. The decision will enable the commission to enforce so-called “net neutrality” and prevent service providers from charging for priority access or interfering with traffic. However, telecom and cable companies are expected to challenge the decision in court.

Eye on the Week Ahead

In a data-heavy week, Friday’s unemployment figure will be of interest. Also, the European Central Bank will meet on Thursday to discuss its bond-buying efforts.

Data sources: News items are based on reports from multiple commonly available international news sources (i.e. wire services) and are independently verified when necessary with secondary sources such as government agencies, corporate press releases, or trade organizations. Market data: Based on data reported in WSJ Market Data Center (indexes); U.S. Treasury (Treasury yields); U.S. Energy Information Administration/ Market Data (oil spot price, WTI Cushing, OK); (spot gold/silver); Oanda/FX Street (currency exchange rates). All information is based on sources deemed reliable, but no warranty or guarantee is made as to its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed herein constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any securities, and should not be relied on as financial advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a market-value weighted index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The Russell 2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2,000 U.S. small-cap common stocks. The Global Dow is an equally weighted index of 150 widely traded blue-chip common stocks worldwide. Market indices listed are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment.