U.S. and World News
- The left-wing, anti-austerity Syriza party won the general election in Greece on Sunday, raising concerns over the country’s future status as member of the European Union. Party leader Alexis Tsipras has already moved to form a coalition that will work to reverse years of austerity measures imposed by the Troika. The Syriza government also came out against increasing sanctions on Russia for escalating violence in Ukraine. This could be very problematic for EU foreign policy, as further sanctions must be unanimously voted upon by all EU nations.
- Just about a week after President Obama floated the idea of ending the tax advantage of 529 College Savings plans, the administration has decided to scrap the proposal. Amid outrage from a broad range of Americans, Obama has decided that the plan is a “distraction” and will seek to raise revenue in other ways.
- Ratings agency Standard and Poor’s downgraded Russia’s credit rating to junk, due to weak economic growth prospects, low oil prices and sanctions from the West. The move sent the Russian currency, the ruble, plunging to new lows.
- Equity markets tumbled this week with the S&P 500 falling 2.75% and closing at 1,995. Likewise, the Dow Jones lost 2.87% and closed at 17,165. Year to date, the S&P and Dow Jones are down 3.00% and 3.58% respectively.
- Yields in the Treasury markets remained at very low levels this week. The 10 year Treasury bond now yields 1.65% and the 5 year Treasury bond yields 1.17%.
- The spot price of WTI Crude Oil reversed course after a sharp bounce on Friday, rising 4.89% and closing at $47.82 per barrel. In 2015, WTI Oil prices have fallen 10.95%.
- The spot price of Gold fell by 0.79% this week and closed at $1,283.92 per ounce. Year to date, gold prices are up 8.41%.
- Initial jobless claims declined sharply from last week, coming in at 265,000 vs. consensus estimates of 300,000. This was a new low mark for the recovery. While the Labor Department noted no special factors affecting the report, the holiday shortened week (MLK Day) may have skewed the data. The four week moving average for claims now stands at 298,500.
- The Case-Shiller home price index rose 0.7% in November vs. expectations of 0.6%. This represents the strongest monthly gain since March. Over the last 12 months, home prices as measured by the index have risen 4.3%.
- The first estimate of GDP showed 2.6% growth vs. expectations of 3%. Growth was aided by a strong 4.3% increase in consumer spending but was suppressed by increasing import activity. Full year 2014 GDP growth now stands at 2.5%, which is a solid gain especially given the -2.1% number posted in the 1st quarter of 2014.
Fact of the Week
- Apple reported earnings this week, showing that the company has $178 billion in cash reserves on its balance sheet. The size of this cash component alone would rank it 5th in size in the entire S&P 500. This amount of cash would be enough to give each American $556 or purchase every pro sports franchise in the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL.
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