U.S. and World News
- After the House passed its tax reform bill, the Senate has been at work crafting their own version of the bill. Progress was seemingly smooth as several procedural hurdles had been cleared with most of the GOP on the same page with the details and a vote on the bill was anticipated by the end of this week. However, some last minute road blocks have delayed any vote this week. With some Senate members concerned over the deficit, it’s now possible that the level of tax cuts might have to be moderated, future tax increases might be built in and some members may seek to attach spending cuts to the bill in order to win their support. Markets had rallied on increased optimism of passage but pulled back a bit later in the week as these obstacles arose.
- Temporarily sending markets sharply down on Friday, former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s ambassador and disclosed that he is cooperating with the special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Flynn is the first person inside President Trump’s administration to be reached by the probe and the latest developments are a sign that the investigation is intensifying. According to an FBI statement, Flynn communicated with Russian officials at the request of Trump transition team officials to influence foreign policy. In a statement, the White House said that “nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.”
- North Korea fired another test missile this week, this time a new ICBM that was launched to a high enough altitude that it would put all of the U.S. mainland within range. North Korean officials said that with the launch, which reached a height of 2,780 miles, they achieved the country’s long held goal of becoming a nuclear power. In response, the U.S. is calling on all countries to suspend diplomatic ties with North Korea and has asked China to stop crude oil trade with North Korea or it will “take the oil situation into our own hands.”
- Markets were up this week, setting new All-Time Highs along the way. The S&P gained 1.60%, closing at 2,642. The Dow Jones rose 3.00% for the week and closed at 24,232. Year to date, the S&P is up 20.25% and the Dow is up 25.49%.
- Interest rates were slightly higher for the week albeit in more volatile trading. The 5 year and 10 year U.S. Treasury Notes are now yielding 2.12% and 2.36%, respectively.
- The spot price of WTI Crude Oil dipped by 1.04% this week, closing at $58.34 per barrel. Year to date, Oil prices have risen 4.51%.
- The spot price of Gold ended the week off by 0.65%, closing at $1,279.96 per ounce. Year to date, Gold prices are up 11.54%.
- Initial jobless claims dropped 2,000 from last week, coming in at 238,000. Filings continued to fall from 10 year highs in Puerto Rico, which continues to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The four week moving average for claims rose to 242,000.
- The headline PCE index (measure of inflation) rose by 0.1% in October, in line with forecasts. Headline inflation as measured by the PCE index has risen 1.6% over the last 12 months.
- Core PCE (excludes food and energy, Fed’s preferred inflation measure) rose 0.2% in October, also in line with expectations. Over the last 12 months, Core PCE is up 1.5%, still short of the Federal Reserve’s long range target of 2%.
- The Case-Shiller home price index rose by 0.5% in September, beating consensus expectations of 0.4%. Prices rose in all 20 cities measured, with Atlanta (+1.3%), San Francisco (+1.1%), Las Vegas (+1.0%) and Tampa (+1.0%) showing the largest monthly increases. Home prices as measured by the index have risen 6.2% over the last 12 months.
Fact of the Week
- Adobe Analytics reports that U.S. retailers saw record online sales to start the holiday shopping season. The totals for Thanksgiving and Black Friday are reportedly $7.9 billion in sales, a 17.9% increase from a year ago. Cyber Monday sales also impressed, coming in at $6.6 billion and becoming the largest U.S. online sales day ever.
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