U.S. and World News
- President Trump met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week for their first face-to-face meeting. The major topic of discussion was the NAFTA trade deal that Trump has vowed to update and renegotiate. The two leaders also discussed Trump’s decision to conditionally approve the Keystone XL pipeline which begins in Alberta’s oil sands. Coming out of the meeting, Trump said that the trade situation with Canada is already “less severe” than it is with Mexico. Canada sends 75% of its exports to the United States, accounting for 20% of Canada’s GDP.
- Janet Yellen delivered her semi-annual testimony to Congress this week and touched on a number of topics, including the pace of interest rate hikes in the near future. On that note, she stated that, “I would say every meeting would be live,” indicating that the next hike could come as soon as the Fed’s March meeting. The markets are now pricing in a little over a 1 in 3 chance that the Fed raises rates in March.
- Markets rose this week with continued low volatility. The S&P 500 gained 1.60% and closed at 2,351 which is an All-Time High. The Dow Jones followed suit by rising 1.88% and closing at 20,624. Year to date, the S&P is up 5.31% and the Dow is up 4.76%.
- Interest rates were little changed this week and the 5 year and 10 year U.S. Treasury Notes are now yielding 1.90% and 2.42%, respectively.
- The spot price of WTI Crude Oil was down 0.91% this week, closing at $53.37 per barrel. Year to date, Oil prices have dipped 0.65%.
- The spot price of Gold increased by 0.11% this week, closing at $1,235.00 per ounce. Year to date, Gold prices are up 7.63%.
- Initial jobless claims rose 5,000 from last week, coming in at 239,000. The Labor Department noted no special factors in the data. The four week moving average for claims now stands at 245,000 which is very close to a new 40-year low.
- Retail sales increased by 0.4% in January, beating expectations of 0.1%. Retail sales ex-autos rose by 0.8%. Gains were broad-based across categories, with the largest increases coming from sporting goods (1.8%), electronics (1.6%), restaurants/bars (1.4%) and department stores (1.2%).
- The headline Consumer Price Index (measure of inflation) increased by 0.6% in January, beating expectations of 0.3%. This was mostly the result of a 4.0% increase in energy prices during the month. Over the last 12 months, headline CPI has risen 2.5%.
- Core CPI (excludes food and energy) increased by 0.3% during January, more than the 0.2% forecasted. In the last year, core prices have risen 2.3%.
Fact of the Week
- 54% of student loan borrowers have either defaulted or failed to pay down even $1 of principal on their outstanding debt over the last 7 years. Until an error was discovered in the government calculations last month, it was believed that the percentage was much lower, at 34%. (Source: Education Department)
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