U.S. and World News
- Despite last week’s report that an agreement between Britain and European Union was on track, British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a historic referendum to decide whether the United Kingdom should remain in the EU. Though Cameron himself strongly favors remaining in the economic bloc, he lost the backing of London Mayor Boris Johnson, who became the most high profile supporter of a British exit, or Brexit. The referendum is set to take place on June 23rd and the announcement set off a plunge in the value of the British Pound.
- Finance ministers and central bank governors from the world’s 20 leading economies have convened in Shanghai to discuss a response to the dim global economic landscape. G20 participants will discuss many issues including the plunge in commodity prices, increased market volatility, exchange rates and the slowdown of China’s economy.
- Markets continued to gain back ground this week. The S&P 500 gained 1.61% and closed at 1,948. Likewise, the Dow Jones rose 1.52% and closed at 16,640. So far in 2016, the S&P is down 4.33% and the Dow is down 4.03%.
- Interest rates rose modestly this week. The 5 year and 10 year U.S. Treasury Notes are now yielding 1.24% and 1.77%, respectively.
- The spot price of WTI Crude Oil gained 3.43% this week to close at $32.43 per barrel. WTI Crude has fallen 16.08% in 2016.
- The spot price of Gold decreased 0.27% this week, closing at $1,223.46 per ounce. Year to date, gold prices are up 15.30%.
- Initial jobless claims came in at 272,000 which was an increase from last week’s reading of 262,000. The Labor Department noted no special factors in the data. The four week moving average for claims moved down to 272,000.
- The Case-Shiller home price index rose 0.8% in December, slightly lower than expectations of 0.9%. Of the 20 city index, 19 showed price increases during the month. Over the last 12 months, home prices as measured by the index have risen 5.7%.
- The headline PCE index (measure of inflation) rose by 0.1% in January, better than expectations of flat prices. Over the last 12 months, prices as measured by PCE have risen 1.3% vs. forecasts of 1.1%. Core PCE (excludes food and energy prices, preferred measure of inflation used by the Fed) was up 0.26% in January, narrowly beating expectations of 0.2%. Over the last 12 months, core PCE is up 1.7%, closer to the Federal Reserve’s goal of 2.0% inflation.
- GDP growth in the 4th quarter of 2015 was revised up to 1.0% from the initial estimate of 0.7%. This was better growth than had been expected by the consensus (0.4%).
Fact of the Week
- According to the National Association of Home Builders, over the last 30 years, the average size of a new single family home built in the U.S. has increased by 935 square feet to a total of 2,720 square feet. This is roughly the equivalent of adding a 30’ by 31’ room.
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