The recovery may be slowing in the first quarter even though we just got an upward revision to fourth quarter GDP. Two of the reasons that economic growth may be easing are that housing has stalled and consumer confidence has fallen. Yes, there are other reasons, but these two stood out this past week.
Recap of US Markets
Economic news and credit worries in Europe weighed on equities despite assurance from the Fed that interest rates will remain low for an extended period. Stocks took their biggest hit this past week on Tuesday when consumer confidence unexpectedly dropped, stooping to a 10-month low. Also, a dip in the headline Case-Shiller home price index weighed on equities.
Stocks bumped back up on Wednesday when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke stated that interest rates would remain low for an extended period. His comments were not really news to Fed watchers but equity traders decided to be in a positive mood anyway and despite a plunge in new home sales the same day.
Equities on Thursday mostly fell on mixed economic data. A jump in initial jobless claims outweighed a rise in durables orders, pushing stocks down. Worries over Greece’s debt crisis also came into play. President Obama’s health care summit also caused jitters about the impact on business. Stocks were mixed on Friday and mostly little changed despite the report of a sharp quarterly loss by AIG, a plummet in existing home sales, and a dip in consumer sentiment. Real GDP growth for Q4 was revised up but final sales were revised down. On the positive side, the Chicago PMI was a little stronger than expected. Overall, equities continued to adjust to a slowing in the recovery.
Equities were down this past week. The Dow was down 0.7 percent; the S&P 500, down 0.4 percent; the Nasdaq, down 0.3 percent; and the Russell 2000, down 0.5 percent.
Equities were up in February with healthy gains overall. The Dow was up 2.6 percent; the S&P 500, up 2.9 percent; the Nasdaq, up 4.2 percent; and the Russell 2000, up 4.4 percent.
For the year-to-date, major indexes are mostly down as follows: the Dow, down 1.0 percent; the S&P 500, down 1.0 percent; and the Nasdaq, down 1.4 percent. The Russell 2000 is now up 0.5 percent.