Alpha Wealth Management and Planning Presents:
“For one human being to love another; that is
perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and
proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
If a consumer debt burden bothers you, think twice about turning to a debt settlement company. Their ideal customers are consumers who can access big lump sums of cash. If that isn’t you, negotiating with creditors yourself may prove cheaper.
Andrei Jigalin, Certified Financial Planner. Novato, CA
Certified Financial Planner, Santa Rosa CA.
Financial Planning Offices in Marin and Sonoma Counties.
THE MONTH IN BRIEF
DOMESTIC ECONOMIC HEALTH
As for employment, the Labor Department noted a sixth consecutive month of job creation above the 200,000 level – something that hadn’t occurred since 1997. Employers added 209,000 non-farm jobs in July, 47,000 in the professional & business services category. Unemployment crept up to 6.2% and underemployment (the U-6 rate) ticked up to 12.2% last month, but that was a consequence of more participants in the labor market.5
On the factory front, the Institute for Supply Management’s July manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) read 57.1, up 1.8 points from June. U.S. industrial output had risen 0.2% in June, a Federal Reserve report noted. Buoyed by demand for aircraft, durable goods orders advanced 0.7% in June after a 1.0% retreat in May.3,4,6
Annualized consumer inflation remained at 2.1% in June, even with a 0.3% monthly rise in the Consumer Price Index. (Yearly inflation was only at 1.1% in February.) Wholesale prices were up 1.9% in 12 months as of June, with the Producer Price Index showing a monthly gain of 0.4%. At month’s end, Wall Street noticed that the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment cost index rose 0.7% in Q2, its largest quarterly jump since 2008. Employment costs include wages, and this signaled wage growth at last. Investors fretted that the rising indicator might offer further grounds for hiking interest rates sooner than anticipated.7,8
On July 9, the Fed solidified its endgame for QE3: reductions to monetary stimulus would continue as scheduled, concluding with a last $15 billion cut to zero at the October Federal Open Market Committee meeting. The economy was certainly over the winter doldrums: in the federal government’s initial estimate, Q2 brought 4.0% growth. The abysmal first quarter number was revised again: Q1 2014 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) now goes in the books at -2.1% rather than -2.9%.3,9
GLOBAL ECONOMIC HEALTH
After the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine at the apparent hands of Russian separatists, investors worried that the U.S. and eurozone would tighten economic sanctions on Russia. Israel launched a ground offensive into Gaza in response to Hamas missile attacks, and attempts at cease fires were short-lived. In mid-month, the parent firm of major Portuguese lender Banco Espirito Santo failed to make payments on commercial paper – and the bank still appeared shaky as July ended.1,11
China offered better news. In July, its official PMI rose 0.7 points to a 26-month peak of 51.7. China’s GDP was 7.4% for the first half of 2014, but its government still predicted its economy reaching the 7.5% target for the year. Markit’s eurozone PMI topped the Reuters forecast of 52.8 for July, reaching a 3-month peak of 54.0. Factory sectors in France and Germany were heading in opposite directions – France’s Markit PMI was at 49.4 in July, Germany’s at 55.9. Markit projections showed eurozone GDP growing at about 0.4% per quarter.12,13
Major European indices were mostly in the red in July. Losses came to the DAX (4.33%), the CAC 40 (4.00%), the RTS (10.74%), the FTSE 100 (0.21%), the Europe Dow (4.05%) and the STOXX 600 (1.72%). To round out the scorecard, the MSCI World Index fell 1.67% in July, the Global Dow 1.02%.2,14
In the big picture, futures struggled. Energy futures certainly didn’t have a good month: July brought losses of 14.04% for natural gas, 9.16% for unleaded gasoline, 2.68% for heating oil and 7.22% for oil, with NYMEX crude ending the month at $98.17. Some marquee crops descended, too: cotton went -15.39% last month, soybeans -12.54%, wheat -5.97%, sugar -0.99% and corn -15.57%. Cocoa and coffee proved exceptions; the former gained 2.13% and the latter jumped 13.49%.15
How did key metals do? Not too well. Copper futures rose 1.00% last month, but July saw COMEX gold lose 3.43%, silver 2.76% and platinum 1.57%. At the close on July 31, COMEX gold was valued at $1,281.30 an ounce. The U.S. Dollar Index gained 2.11% for July.15,16
As for yearly home price gains, there was a major slip for the S&P/Case-Shiller index in May – the annualized overall price gain across 20 metro markets was 9.3%, down markedly from 10.8% in the April edition. (Then again, house prices can’t climb 10% or more every year.) The Census Bureau found a 5.3% annualized increase in new home prices. Building permits for new construction were down 4.2% for June, and housing starts down 9.3% in that month.3,7,17
Home loans? On July 31, Freddie Mac published the following average interest rates in its Primary Mortgage Market Survey: 30-year FRM, 4.12%; 15-year FRM, 3.23%; 5/1-year ARM, 3.01%; 1-year ARM, 2.38%. Here were the average rates on June 26: 30-year FRM, 4.14%; 15-year FRM, 3.22%; 5/1-year ARM, 2.98%; 1-year ARM, 2.40%.18
LOOKING BACK…LOOKING FORWARD
Indices are unmanaged, do not incur fees or expenses, and cannot be invested into directly.
These returns do not include dividends.
After the fall stocks took at the end of last month, analysts are again wondering if a correction is near. (For the record, the July 31 selloff left the S&P 500 just 3.1% down from its record high.) If a correction is coming – and Argentina, Russia and Portugal aren’t the only possible worries that might unnerve Wall Street – there is always the silver lining of being able to pick up quality shares for less, an opportunity some investors have awaited. There is certainly more to worry about than there was three months ago. Global investors do take many cues from the U.S., however, and our hiring and our GDP look very, very good right now. How much attention will the (presumably positive) indicators from America command over the next several weeks? Markets may be more volatile this month than we’ve been accustomed to during a mostly placid 2014.21
UPCOMING ECONOMIC RELEASES: The roll call of releases for the rest of August: June wholesale inventories (8/8), June business inventories and July retail sales (8/13), July’s PPI and July industrial output and the University of Michigan’s initial August consumer sentiment index (8/15), the July CPI plus July housing starts and building permits (8/19), the minutes of the July Fed policy meeting (8/20), July existing home sales and the Conference Board’s July index of leading indicators (8/21), July new home sales (8/25), the Conference Board’s August consumer confidence index, July durable goods orders and June’s Case-Shiller home price index (8/26), the federal government’s second reading of Q2 GDP and NAR’s July pending home sales report (8/28), and then July personal spending and the final University of Michigan August consumer sentiment index (8/29).
August 2014 Economic Update
| August 07, 2014