Thinking about the possibilities.
The Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 Index finished last week slightly higher and has gained about 6 percent during the past 25 days; however, investors have curbed their enthusiasm. The S&P 500 hasn’t experienced a move of one percent or more in 25 trading days. That’s the longest period without a move of that size in about two years, according to a source cited by Avi Salzman of Barron’s.
It’s possible investors are taking time to think about the current mix of conditions and how the economy and financial markets may be affected. For example:
- Consumers have said they’re concerned about inflation. The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index declined in early November on a year-to-year and a month-to-month basis. Survey participants indicated their outlook was negatively affected by inflation concerns, reported Surveys of Consumers Chief Economist Richard Curtin.
- Retail sales were higher than expected. There was a difference between what consumers said and what they did. Despite inflation concerns, retail sales were up 1.7 percent from October to November and 16.3 percent year-over-year, reported Jeff Cox of CNBC.
- Companies were very profitable during the third quarter. Supply chain issues and inflation were frequently mentioned by companies during earnings calls, but they didn’t affect corporate profits. The majority (82 percent) of companies reported higher than expected earnings per share. On average, company profits were up 39 percent year-over-year, which was the strongest growth since 2010, reported John Butters of FactSet.
- The oil shortage may already be over. Oil prices dropped last week. A surge of COVID-19 cases in Europe is expected to slow demand just as supplies may increase as some countries begin to release oil from strategic petroleum reserves, reported Avi Salzman of Barron’s.During the past decade, oil prices have accounted for about 56 percent of the price of a gallon of gasoline, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. As oil prices fall, gasoline prices also may move lower.
The performance of major U.S. stock indices was mixed last week, according to Avi Salzman of Barron’s. The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries dropped last week.
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