Economic Update 01/09/17

RISING WAGES, MODERATE HIRING IN DECEMBER

The Department of Labor’s latest employment report shows the average hourly wage at $26.00 last month, up 2.9% in a year. That is the largest annualized wage increase seen since June 2009. Payrolls expanded by 156,000 additional hires in December, leaving total 2016 job growth at a 5-year low of 2.2 million. (This could be a sign of the labor market reaching full employment.) The headline jobless rate ticked up to 4.7%, while the U-6 rate encompassing the underemployed was at 9.2%.

MANUFACTURING ACTIVITY PICKED UP AS 2016 ENDED

Investors liked what they saw in the Institute for Supply Management’s December purchasing manager indices. ISM’s manufacturing PMI rose 1.5 points to 54.7, its best reading in two years. The Institute’s service sector PMI held steady at an impressive 57.2 last month.

FED OUTLOOK: CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC

Minutes from the December Federal Reserve policy meeting noted that Federal Open Market Committee members were reasonably confident about the economy for 2017, while citing some “uncertainty about the timing, size and composition” of future policy moves. In other words, the Fed may or may not ultimately follow through on its 2017 forecast of three interest rate hikes. FOMC members saw “only a modest risk” of a “sharp acceleration in prices” this year.

DOW ENDS WEEK AT 19,964

The blue chips hit an intraday high of 19,999.63 Friday on the way to a 1.02% weekly advance to 19,963.80. As the Dow flirted with history, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq made history, respectively closing at record peaks of 2,276.98 and 5,521.06. The S&P gained 1.70% for the week; the Nasdaq, 2.56%. Dropping 19.37% in five days, the CBOE VIX “fear index” finished the trading week at 11.32.

THIS WEEK: On Monday, Acuity Brands, Alcoa, and WD-40 report Q4 results. Nothing significant is scheduled on Tuesday. KB Home and SuperValu announce earnings Wednesday. Thursday, the latest initial jobless claims report appears, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen addresses teachers at a Washington, D.C. town hall meeting, and Delta Air Lines shares Q4 results. The week’s major news items all arrive Friday – investors will consider the December retail sales report from the Census Bureau, December’s Producer Price Index, the initial January University of Michigan consumer sentiment index, and earnings reports from Bank of America, BlackRock, JPMorgan Chase, PNC, and Wells Fargo.

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