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Stock prices moved higher in July, propelled by strong economic reports and robust corporate earnings while ignoring the woes of some high-profile tech names.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average led, picking up 4.71 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 3.6 percent while the NASDAQ Composite rose 2.15 percent.1
June began on an optimistic note as a strong jobs report, good manufacturing numbers, and a retreat in the U.S. dollar sent stocks higher.
The month started out volatile, but rallied on positive manufacturing numbers and another good unemployment report.
THE TARIFF INFLUENCE
The market remained somewhat hostage to unfolding tariffs, moving higher on positive developments and then lower on surprise news. Some technology stocks and smaller capitalization companies—which are generally seen as less affected by tariffs—steadily advanced as the month progressed. The Russell 2000 Index, which tracks small-cap stocks, rose 3.3% for the month.
The second-quarter earnings season began on an optimistic note, with corporate earnings reports producing plenty of surprises to the upside. But cautious earnings guidance, especially from companies affected by the intensifying tariff action, dampened some enthusiasm.
Later in the month, the markets were caught off guard by disappointing reports from Facebook and Twitter in two successive days. The news sparked selling in technology stocks, which had led the market much of the year.
With 53 percent of S&P 500 companies reporting, 83 percent reported positive earnings surprises—the highest rate since Q3 2008, when Factset Research started compiling the information.2
After three days of steep market declines, the markets steadied a bit on the final trading day of the month.
The S&P 500 Index’s gains this month were broadly distributed across all industry sectors, with the exception of Communication Services (-2.81 percent) and Real Estate (-0.89 percent). Strong returns were posted by Consumer Staples (+3.47 percent), Financials (+5.87 percent), Health Care (+5.45 percent), and Industrials (+5.07 percent). Gains were also seen in Consumer Discretionary (+1.33 percent), Energy (+1.74 percent), Utilities (+0.69 percent), Materials (+1.93 percent), and Technology (+1.81 percent).3
WHAT INVESTORS MAY BE TALKING ABOUT IN AUGUST
In the month ahead, attention may shift to the yield curve, which shows the difference between short- and long-term interest rates.
YIELD CURVE SIGNALS
When the yield curve inverts, investors may be voicing a belief that the economy’s short-term outlook is poor, preferring the lower yields of longer-term bonds to those with shorter maturities. This matters to investors because over the last several decades, each time the yield curve has inverted, a recession has followed.4
Though the yield curve has not yet inverted, yields have flattened in late July to a level not seen since 2007.5
DIFFERENT THIS TIME?
The Fed seems to be dismissing the shape of the yield curve as a recession indicator, arguing that factors like modest long-term inflation expectations may reduce the reliability of the yield curve as an indicator of a recession in the current environment.
Private economists are divided about what a flattening (or inverted) yield curve means for current economic expansion. This uncertainty may lead to a growing investor focus on relative bond yields, and perhaps some interim market volatility.
Reduced trade tensions and strong company earnings sent global stocks generally higher, with the MSCI-EAFE Index adding 2.69 percent.6
European markets were broadly positive, with Germany, France, and Switzerland moving higher. The U.K. lagged, however, as the country continued to grapple with the uncertainty of its exit from the EU.7
Stocks in the Pacific Rim markets also advanced, led by Japan and Australia.8
GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT
The economy grew 4.1 percent in the second quarter, its strongest quarterly gain in nearly four years. Strength was seen across the board with healthy consumer spending, trade, and business investment numbers.9
The unemployment rate ticked up by 0.2 percent to 4.0 percent even as non-farm payrolls increased by 213,000 in June, indicating that a healthy economy was bringing more Americans into the job market. Wage growth remained subdued, rising 2.7 percent compared with June of 2017.10
Consumer spending rose 0.5 percent in June, while May’s strong 0.8 percent increase was revised higher to 1.3 percent. Compared to last June, retail sales were up 6.6 percent, well ahead of 2.9 percent inflation rate for that period.11
Industrial production rose 0.8 percent, rebounding strongly from the previous month’s decline.12
Housing starts plunged in June, falling 12.3 percent. It was the most significant decline since November 2016.13
New home sales sank 5.3 percent, though they remained 6.9 percent higher for the first six months of the year, compared to the same period in 2017.14
Sales of previously owned homes declined for the third straight month, falling 0.6 percent in June. The median sales price was $276,900, up by 5.2 percent from a year earlier.15
CONSUMER PRICE INDEX
Inflation rose 0.1 percent in June. While the monthly increase was minimal, the CPI for the twelve months ending in June 2018 came in at 2.9 percent, the highest level since February 2012.16
DURABLE GOODS ORDERS
After declines in the last two months, new orders for durable goods rose 1.0 percent. Excluding the defense sector, durable goods orders increased 1.5 percent in June.17
The minutes from the Fed’s June FOMC meeting contained few surprises for the market, confirming intentions that the Fed had already telegraphed: rates will continue to be raised to a level that no longer stimulates growth, but not so high as to slow down the economy.
The Fed also reiterated its concern that an escalation in trade tariffs poses a danger to economic growth.18 Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s testimony on Capitol Hill confirmed this position.
BY THE NUMBERS
134 degrees Fahrenheit
(Death Valley, CA, July 10, 1913)19
Highest air temperature ever recorded on earth
Average sunny days per year in Phoenix
Population of Phoenix
-144 degrees Fahrenheit
(East Antarctic Plateau, readings between 2004 and 2016) 22
Lowest air temperature ever recorded on earth
Coldest city in the U.S
-17 degrees Fahrenheit20
Normal low in the coldest month
Average annual snowfall
Population of Fairbanks
(Unionville, Maryland, July 4, 1956)23
Most rainfall ever measured in one minute
Amount of rain produced by Hurricane Harvey in 2017
Length of the storm
Estimated cost of storm-related damages
Size of the Houston city budget for 2019
Amount of money the city of Boston has budgeted for snow removal in 2019
Average pay in the U.S. for a snowplow driver
Average pay for a pool lifeguard
Amount of money Americans spend on sun care products each year
Amount of money we spend on soft drinks
Percent of people ages 18 to 29 who use an app to monitor weather
Growth in the number of people who check the weather online between 2008 and 2017