U.S. and World News
- In a highly anticipated move, the Federal Reserve raised the Fed Funds Rate by 0.25% this week. Despite being the second rate hike in three months, the Committee remained committed to a gradual pace of rate hikes going forward. The Fed projects two more interest rate hikes in 2017, though there are differing views among the members. There was one dissent, Neel Kashkari, who supported not raising at this meeting and taking a wait and see approach. Finally, it was noted by Fed Chair Janet Yellen that the size of the Fed’s balance sheet (which stands at $4.5 trillion) was discussed at the meeting, but no decisions were made in regard to reducing it over time.
- British Prime Minister Theresa May secured permission to trigger Article 50 which would officially mark the beginning of Brexit negotiations between the nation and its European Union counterparts. Having received the go-ahead from Parliament, May has said that she will invoke Article 50 by the end month. It’s expected that the negotiation process will last at least two years before Britain is officially able to leave the EU.
- Markets closed the week moderately higher. The S&P 500 gained 0.28% and closed at 2,378. The Dow Jones followed suit by inching up 0.08% and closing at 20,915. Year to date, the S&P is up 6.71% and the Dow is up 6.45%.
- Despite a 0.25% rate hike in the Fed Funds Rate, interest rates fell this week as the projected pace of future hikes was not accelerated. The 5 year and 10 year U.S. Treasury Notes are now yielding 2.02% and 2.50%, respectively.
- The spot price of WTI Crude Oil stabilized this week and gained 0.47% this week, closing at $48.72 per barrel. Year to date, Oil prices have fallen 9.31%.
- The spot price of Gold increased by 2.04% this week, closing at $1,229.26 per ounce. Year to date, Gold prices are up 7.13%.
- Initial jobless claims edged 2,000 lower from last week, coming in at 241,000. The Labor Department noted no special factors in the data. The four week moving average for claims remained at 237,000 which is a near a 40-year low.
- Retail sales increased 0.1% in February, in line with expectations. Sales excluding autos and gasoline increased 0.2%. Delayed tax refunds appeared to bring down several Retail categories.
- The Consumer Price Index (measure of inflation) increased 0.1% in February, slightly beating expectations for flat prices. Over the last 12 months, CPI has increased 2.7%.
- Core CPI (excludes food and energy) rose 0.2% for February, in line with expectations. Core prices have risen 2.2% over the last year.
- Housing starts increased by 3.0% in February, beating expectations of 1.1%. The details of the report were also favorable, as the less volatile single family starts increased by 6.5% to the highest level since October 2007 while multi-family starts decreased 3.7%.
Fact of the Week
- The S&P 500 has now gone 108 consecutive trading days without suffering at least a 1% decline over any single trading day. That’s the longest stretch that the S&P has gone without a 1% drop since it had a run of 105 trading days without one that ended on December 15, 1995. (Source: By The Numbers Research)
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