U.S. and World News
- Global tensions are rising in the wake of North Korea firing four ballistic missiles into nearby waters over the weekend. Three of those missiles landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, causing the country to move to the highest possible alert level. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared, “This clearly shows North Korea has entered a new stage of threat.” Fearing a rapid escalation, China has called upon North Korea to stop its nuclear and missile tests and for South Korea and the U.S. to cease their joint military drills in the area.
- Republican leaders in Congress unveiled their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare this week. Along with the end of the health insurance mandates, the proposal would restructure the Medicaid program and create a new tax credit tied to a person’s age and income for those who cannot get insurance through their employer. President Trump is “proud to endorse” the plan and called for its speedy passage despite some opposition within the Republican Party.
- Markets fell a bit this week. The S&P 500 lost 0.40% and closed at 2,373. The Dow Jones followed suit by dipping 0.40% and closing at 20,903. Year to date, the S&P is up 6.41% and the Dow is up 6.36%.
- Interest rates rose quite a bit this week as odds of a Fed rate hike next week have all but hit 100%. The 5 year and 10 year U.S. Treasury Notes are now yielding 2.10% and 2.58%, respectively.
- The spot price of WTI Crude Oil plunged 9.38% this week, closing at $48.33 per barrel. Year to date, Oil prices have fallen 10.03%.
- The spot price of Gold decreased by 2.43% this week, closing at $1,204.74 per ounce. Year to date, Gold prices are up 4.99%.
- Initial jobless claims bounced 20,000 higher from last week, coming in at 243,000. The Labor Department noted no special factors in the data. The four week moving average for claims now stands at 237,000 which is a near a 40-year low.
- The February jobs report showed an increase of 235,000 new jobs created in the month, better than expectations of 200,000. The prior two months’ figures were revised up by a combined 8,000 which brings the three month average for job gains to 209,000 per month. The report was generally very positive, one blemish however was the 26,000 retail jobs lost during the month, continuing that sector’s recent struggles.
- The headline unemployment rate ticked down to 4.7%, in line with expectations. The 0.1% decrease in the unemployment rate occurred despite a 0.1% increase in the labor force participation rate to 63.0%.
- Average hourly earnings rose 0.2% in February, below forecasts of 0.3%. Over the last 12 months, wages have increased 2.8%.
Fact of the Week
- The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) index turned 60 years old this week. The index is widely regarded as the most accurate gauge of large American stocks and it is market capitalization weighted as opposed to the Dow, which is weighted by price, or other indexes that have an equal weighting. The S&P 500 is by far the biggest index in the world, with about $2.4 trillion being tracked by it.
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