Money Talk Podcast, Friday March 23, 2018
Landaas & Company newsletter March edition now available.
Advisors on This Week’s Show
(with Max Hoelzl and Joel Dresang)
Week in Review (March 19-23, 2018)
Significant economic indicators & reports
No major announcements
No major announcements
Sales of existing houses grew at a faster-than-expected pace in February while the supply of houses for sale continued to decline and prices rose. The National Association of Realtors reported an annual rate of 5.54 million houses selling in February, up 3% from January and up 1.1% from February 2017. The National Association of Realtors citied a healthy U.S. economy and strong labor market for maintaining demand for housing but complained that the short supply was impinging on affordability. The inventory of houses on the market fell from the year before for 33rd consecutive month. The median sale price rose 5.9% for the 72nd increase in a row.
The policy-making body of the Federal Reserve Board decided to bump up the interest rate on short-term rates to 1.75% from 1.5%. The move was the latest in a series of actions by the Fed to gradually back off on the monetary stimulus it provided the U.S. economy since the Great Recession. The Federal Open Market Committee indicated it expects to raise interest rates two more times in 2018.
The moving four-week average for initial unemployment claims rose for the second time in the three weeks since it reached its lowest level in 48 years. Jobless claims remained 37% below the 51-year average, according to Labor Department data, suggesting that employers continue to be reluctant to let workers go. That has been a persistent indication of a tight labor market, which has been enhancing consumer confidence.
The index of leading economic indicators rose 0.6% in February, following even larger gains in January and December, leading to the biggest six-month growth rate since 2011. Recent soft spots in stocks and residential building warranted monitoring, the Conference Board said. Otherwise, the index from the business research group suggested “robust economic growth throughout 2018.”
Durable goods orders rose 3.1% in February, the fifth gain in seven months, following a 3.5% decline in January. Orders for commercial aircraft and automobiles lifted the February numbers, according to the Commerce Department. The less volatile orders excluding transportation equipment rose 1.2% from January and 8.5% from February 2017. A proxy for business investment gained for the first time in three months and was up 7.4% from the year before, suggesting companies may be plowing federal tax savings into ways that will make them more productive.
In the volatile housing recovery, the rate of new home sales slowed in February, dipping 0.6% to an annual rate of 618,000 houses sold. That was 0.5% faster than the year-earlier rate but remained below the pace entering the recession. An encouraging sign was that the supply of new houses for sale rose to its highest level since August, which could marginally help address a longstanding complaint among Realtors of a lack of inventory.
Where the Markets Closed for the Week
- Nasdaq – 6,993, down 489 points or 6.5%
- Standard & Poor’s 500 – 2,588, down 164 points or 6%
- 10-year U.S. Treasury Note – 2.83%, down 0.02 point
- Dow Jones Industrial– 23,533, down 1,413 points or 5.7%