Sunday, March 04, 2012

Weekly Recap

Here is the weekly recap from

Stocks finished the week in lackluster fashion, but the S&P 500 still posted another weekly gain -- the eighth in nine weeks. Commodities were cut down, though.

Early action was choppy and without leadership. It was also undermined by weakness in the Energy sector, which came under pressure in conjunction with lower oil prices. The Energy sector settled with a 1.1% loss, which is worse than what any other sector suffered, while oil closed pit trade with a 1.9% loss at $106.68 per barrel. Earlier this week oil hit a multi-month high near $110 per barrel.

The major equity averages set impressive marks of their own earlier this week. The Nasdaq notched its highest level in more than a decade, while the Dow and S&P 500 both printed their best intraday levels since 2008. Along the way the Nasdaq Composite kissed the 3,000 mark, but failed to hold its ground there. The Dow closed above the psychologically significant 13,000 line after a few failed attempts, but was backed down by week's end.

With the major equity averages trading at such heady levels, many pundits are predicting a pullback, especially since stocks are showing some signs of fatigue. In anticipation of possible volatility, there was strong rotation into the dollar. The dollar marked its lowest level of the past three months earlier this week, but it finished out the week in impressive fashion. Its 0.8% gain on Friday helped fuel a weekly gain of 1.2%. Efforts to reduce risk were more pronounced among commodities. While oil's tumble made the most headlines, the rest of the complex was also clipped aggressively. That resulted in a 1.0% loss for the CRB Index on Friday. It fell 1.5% for the week.

Share volume has been paltry all week and was especially pathetic on Friday. Against an uncertain near-term outlook for the market, the absence of corporate news or economic data of consequence suppressed share volume, which barely totaled 520 million shares on the NYSE.

Market participants got a substantial helping of data on Thursday, overshadowing a raft of same-store sales results, which actually proved impressive.

The latest initial jobless claims count totaled 351,000, which is little changed from the prior week's tally of 353,000, but also on par with the 355,000 claims that had been expected, on average, among economists polled by The numbers were supportive of an improving labor market picture, even though the headline unemployment rate remains elevated.

Personal spending increased in January by 0.2%, but income increased by 0.3%. Neither was as strong as what had been expected -- the consensus called for a 0.4% increase in both pieces of data.

The ISM Manufacturing Index fell to 52.4 in February from 54.1 in the prior month, but it still suggested that manufacturing activity expanded during the month. Nonetheless, expectations called for an improvement to 54.7, making the report a disappointment.

Construction spending for January also proved displeasing. It slipped by 0.1%, which isn't drastic, but it came in stark contrast with expectations for a 1.0% increase.

Fed Chairman Bernanke delivered a semiannual monetary policy report to the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday, but his comments reflected those he delivered to the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. Altogether the Chairman's remarks weren't surprising, but the lack of reassurance regarding the Fed's commitment to an accommodative monetary policy was credited for inviting selling interest.

Prior to Bernanke's report market participants learned that fourth quarter GDP was revised upward to a clip of 3.0%, which is greater than the 2.8% that had been reported in the advance reading. The upward revision came as a surprise since no change had been expected, but there response to the news was restrained.

Consistent with an improving macro picture, the Fed's Beige Book indicated that overall economic activity continued to increase at a modest to moderate pace in January and early February. That's not to say that all activity is consistently improving, though.

Data unveiled earlier in the week indicated that durable goods orders fell in January by 4.0%, which is far worse than the 1.4% decline. The steeper-than-expected drop follows an upwardly revised 3.2% increase in the prior month. Excluding transportation, durable goods orders declined during January by 3.2%, which contrasts sharply with the 0.2% increase that many economists had expected to follow a downwardly revised increase of 2.1% in the prior month.

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index ran up 70.8 in February. It was at only 61.5 the month before. Many had expected only a modest improvement to 62.5. Sentiment surrounding housing improved with news that pending home sales increased by 2.0% in January. That was double the pace that had been generally predicted among economists.

Europe was in sharp focus at the start of the week because of news that G-20 officials want eurozone officials to establish additional financial safeguards before more funds are made available to the International Monetary Fund for commitment to the continent. It came back into focus by mid-week because of news that more than 800 banks in Europe cumulatively borrowed more than $700 billion in three-year loans through the second installment of its LTRO operation. Reports of individual funding by week's end helped bolster confidence in several European banks.

There wasn't a great deal of corporate news in play this week, but Apple (AAPL 545.18, +0.71) made headlines when its market cap ballooned to more than a half of a trillion dollars.

Earnings announcements were relatively limited, but Transocean (RIG 54.19, +0.62) posted numbers that were met with a positive response earlier this week. Home improvement retailer Lowe's (LOW 28.13, -0.25) announced quarterly results that featured an upside earnings surprise.


Post a Comment

<< Home