The markets responded negatively both to the good news of resilient U.S. economic data and to the unsettling geopolitical news.
On the domestic front, the Services PMI® registered at 54.5 percent, a 1.8-percentage point increase compared to the July reading of 52.7 percent. A reading above 50 percent indicates the services sector economy is generally expanding; below 50 percent indicates it is generally contracting. It represented the highest reading since February. Additionally, weekly new claims for unemployment benefits fell 13,000 to 216,000, which equaled the lowest level since the week ended Feb. 11, and it marked the fourth straight weekly decline. Those signs of a stable economy reignited some concerns that the Fed would over-tighten monetary policy and create a recession.
The more significant headwinds blew in from Saudi Arabia and China in the form of extended oil production cuts and a crackdown on domestic use of the iPhone, respectively. In response, crude prices surged higher, while Apple stock fell from a tree. The higher crude prices engendered renewed inflation concerns and impacted corporate profits and consumer sentiment. Whereas the move by China to ban iPhone use by government employees at work is not in and of itself economically significant, it does represent the next step in a continuation of the geopolitical maneuvering between the world’s largest economies, which could lead to very disruptive outcomes.
Against that backdrop, only the Oil and Gas sector escaped the week unchanged, with the S&P 500 dropping 1.3%, the Nasdaq losing 1.9%, and small caps suffering a 3.6% decline. The dollar continued its recent rally, while gold retreated 1%. Interest rates inched higher with the yield on the 10-year Treasury rising nine basis points to 4.26%. Short-term rates rose slightly more, as concerns of “higher for longer” Fed policy resurfaced. Treasury rates at 5.5% or higher from one to six months all seem like attractive options for investors. The recent sell-off in small caps and dividend-paying stocks also provides compelling value for long-term patient investors.
The August Consumer Price Index report will be released on Wednesday and is expected to show a 3.6% year-over-year increase, with higher energy prices responsible for the uptick. Any surprises from that report could certainly impact the stock and bond markets. The economic calendar will also feature updates on retail sales, producer prices, and jobless claims. Mercifully, the Federal Reserve speakers are in a blackout period ahead of the FOMC meeting scheduled for September 19-20.
Apple plans to introduce the new iPhone 15 on Tuesday. Although the company has been reshoring its supply chain to bring more component manufacturing in-house, it was announced on Monday morning that Apple and Qualcomm will extend their 5G modem supply deal through 2026. The rest of the Tech sector will also be in focus with earnings reports from Oracle and Adobe and the start of the Google monopoly trial.
There could also be turbulence in the auto stocks, as the current contract between the United Auto Workers and the Big Three makers expires at Midnight on Thursday. Meanwhile, in Hollywood, the Writers Guild of America is now in its fifth month of striking. One day, someone will write a fascinating book about how the pandemic fiercely altered the labor market.
On the Chicago sports scene, a beautiful day at Soldier Field was diminished by a discouraging season-opening performance by the Bears. It could be a very long season unless the offensive and defensive lines improve dramatically.
The Cubs look like a lock for a wild-card spot in the playoffs, after which anything can happen.
The Sky secured the final spot in the WNBA playoffs and will face the league’s defending champions, the Las Vegas Aces, on Wednesday night in the desert.
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