Financial and Economic Brief - June 20, 2017

by © Liberty Publishing, Inc.

Home Construction Slowing

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, housing starts fell 5.5% in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.09 million units. This signifies that the shortage of houses for sale might worsen. In fact, it was the third straight month that the pace of construction had slowed with a 2.7% drop in April and 7.7% drop in March. Furthermore, building permits fell 4.9% to 1.17 million. Home construction is still 3.2% higher year-to-date, but it is too modest to address the diminishing supply of homes. Many analysts expect the job gains to translate into more home construction.
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Foreign Stock Funds on the Rise

According to Morningstar, the most popular category of foreign stock funds returned an average of 14.9% this year and funds that focus on stocks from China and other emerging markets have returned 18.1%. This after foreign stocks struggled for almost a decade. Overseas stocks have been moving higher on expectations that economic and profit growth are on the upswing. Investors moved $65 billion into world stock mutual funds and exchange-traded funds through the first four months of the year, according to the Investment Company Institute. The U.S. recovery is further along than in Europe and elsewhere, which means those other areas may have more room to rise.
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Oil Prices Steady, For Now

Oil prices have steadied, after rising production in the U.S., Libya and Nigeria over the past month, which has “taken the edge off” an OPEC-led initiative to cut production. Brent crude futures were trading 9 cents higher at $47.46 per barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were 7 cents higher at $44.81 per barrel. Both benchmarks are down 13% since late May, when oil producers extended a pledge to cut output. Analysts said a steady rise in U.S. production, along with output increases in Libya and Nigeria, were undermining the OPEC-led effort. There are also indicators that demand in Asia is slowing.
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News

Financial and Economic Brief - July 18, 2017

• NY Manufacturing Slows - Manufacturing in New York State grew in July but at a much slower pace than June and remains at a “mostly healthy level”.

• This Week’s Financial News - This week is an “unusually” light week of economic news but does include the kickoff of the second-quarter earnings season.

• Wall Street Opens Flat - Today U.S. stocks opened flat and held steady at record levels. Analysts estimate Q2 earnings for the S&P 500 companies rose 8.1% from Q2 2016.

Financial and Economic Brief - July 11, 2017

• Job Market Better Than Expected - The U.S. job market created 222,000 new positions in June which was higher than expected and the unemployment rate held at 4.4%.

• More Sears and Kmart Closings - On Friday Sears Holdings announced that it will close eight Sears department stores and 35 Kmart locations, adding to the list of 236 stores Sears has closed in 2017

• Steel Demand Forecast Rises - European steel association, Eurofer, raised its 2017 EU steel demand forecast but said a U.S. plan to levy steel tariffs on national security grounds could be terrible for global trade flows.

Financial and Economic Brief - July 4, 2017

• Consumer Sentiment Falls in June - U.S. consumer sentiment fell to 95.1 in June hitting a seven-month low and falling 2.1% from May, according to a new survey.

• Risk of Default? - According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) if lawmakers don't raise or suspend the country's debt ceiling, the Treasury might run short on money.

• Q1 Economic Growth "Upgraded" - The Commerce Department reported last week that the gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 1.4% in Q1 2017, beating the estimate of 1.2%, reflecting the "new-found strength in consumer spending and exports."

Financial and Economic Brief - June 27, 2017

• Fed Policy to Tighten? - The indication of improving private creditworthiness, with the narrowing of credit spreads, along with record stock prices and falling bond yields, “could” inspire the Fed to continue tightening U.S. economic policy.

• U.S. Stocks and Oil Stalling - U.S. stocks trimmed gains on Monday, as technology stocks and oil prices “stalled.”

• China Opening to More Foreign Investors - U.S. investors will soon have access to the MSCI, a leading global index provider, which includes 222 Chinese stocks (A shares) in its emerging-markets stock index.

Financial and Economic Brief - June 20, 2017

• Home Construction Slowing - According to the U.S. Commerce Department, housing starts fell 5.5% in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.09 million units.

• Foreign Stock Funds on the Rise - The most popular category of foreign stock funds returned an average of 14.9% this year and funds that focus on stocks from China and other emerging markets have returned 18.1%.

• Oil Prices Steady, For Now - Oil prices have steadied, after rising production in the U.S., Libya and Nigeria over the past month, which has “taken the edge off” an OPEC-led initiative to cut production.

Financial and Economic Brief - June 13, 2017

• Wholesale Inventories Slip - According to the U.S. Commerce Department, wholesale inventories dropped 0.5% in April.

• Gymboree Files for Bankruptcy - Gymboree, a children's clothing retailer, announced it reached an agreement with lenders that will allow it to stay open as it begins a restructuring process.

• Tech Stocks Fall - Technology stocks fell across Europe and Asia, and were set to fall again on Wall Street after the worst day for Apple (AAPL.O) shares in over a year.