Stock indexes were red across the board as Friday marked the end of a tumultuous week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 279 points to end the week at 17, 826, down -1.28%. The NASDAQ continued its retreat from the 5000 level, to close at 4931 down -1.28% for the week. The S&P 500 showing slight relative strength, only down -1% to close at 2081. Mid-caps and small caps were down -1.25% and -1.02% respectively. Canada’s TSX had only a fractional loss, down -0.18%, on a sharp rebound in oil prices.
Emerging markets and Developed International were each down only -0.4%. The German DAX plunged -5.54%, the London FTSE dropped -1.34%, and France’s CAC 40 lost -1.85%. China and Hong Kong remained red-hot as the Shanghai Stock exchange composite jumped +6.27% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained +1.40%.
Gold gave up -0.36% for the week to close at $1203 an ounce. Silver also gave up -1.46% to close at $16.25 an ounce. West Texas intermediate crude oil leapt +8.26% and finished the week at the $57/bbl level.
In US economic news, retail sales saw solid gains in March with a +0.9% monthly gain that just missed expectations of a 1.1% rise. Excluding autos and gas, the increase was +0.5% versus expectations of +0.4%. Gus Faucher, senior economist for PNC Financial Services stated “It was a very solid report, the details were very encouraging.” The sales data supported the belief that the fundamentals for consumers to power the economy are in place, Faucher said. With job gains averaging 260,000 per month over the past year, the long-awaited pickup in wages may be at hand.
Consumer sentiment rose nearly 3 points to 95.9 in the University of Michigan’s preliminary reading for April. It beat expectations of 95.0 and marked the second highest reading since 2007.
CoreLogic reported there were 39,000 completed foreclosures in February, down 11.6% from January and representing a 67% decline in foreclosures from the peak in February 2010. Confirming this reading was the National Association of Homebuilders Index, which rose 4 points to 56 for April, beating expectations, and recording the highest level of 2015. Housing starts slowed down to a 926,000 annualized pace in March, up 2% versus February, but below expectations for a 1.0 4 million rate.
On the negative side of the ledger, US industrial production declined 0.6% in March, following a 0.1% gain in February, worse than expectations of a 0.3% drop. Capacity utilization dropped to 78.4%, 1.7 percentage points below its 30 year average and retreating away from the 80% level at which firms generally need to invest new capital. The New York Fed’s manufacturing index turned negative in April, dropping to -1.19 from 6.90, missing expectations of a rise to 7.0. This is only the second time it’s done that in nearly 2 years. The New Orders index went further into contraction at -6 suggesting future growth is likely to be weak.
Canadian manufacturing sales fell 1.7% in February; analysts had expected a 0.4% gain. January’s reading was revised down sharply to a 3.1% decline. For the year, sales were 1.5% lower. However, Canadian retail sales jumped 1.7% in February, beating forecasts of a 0.5% gain. For the year sales stood 2.5% higher versus 1.3% higher in January. The consumer price index rose 0.7% in March, more than the 0.5% expected. For the year, the CPI rose 1.2%.
In its latest forecast, the IMF said the strengthening dollar is boosting growth in the Euro area and Japan while taking some steam out of the U.S. recovery. The International Monetary Fund left its projection for global growth in 2015 unchanged from three months ago at +3.5%, according to its World Economic Outlook released Tuesday.
Eurozone Industrial Production rose +1.1% in February, handily beating expectations of a +0.3% gain. Capital goods and durable consumer goods were each up +1%. In Italy, industrial production was up +0.6% in February, much better than the -0.7% decline from January, and ahead of expectations. Capital goods saw a +1.1% jump versus January, while consumer goods remained flat. In the United Kingdom the consumer price index notched a +0.2% gain in March, just missing expectations by +0.1%. The U.K. jobless rate dropped to 5.6% as expected as there were 20,000 fewer unemployment claimants in March. This was the 29th straight decline, and with the jobless rate is at its lowest since 2008, the UK continues to lead Europe economically.
China’s trade surplus sank to a 13 month low as exports were down -15% year-over-year versus expectations for an +11.7% gain. Imports dropped -12.7%, slightly more than the -12.3% expected. Overall trade fell -6.3% in the first quarter compared to the official target of +6% growth in trade in 2015. This suggests the government may step up its stimulus efforts to boost the economy and growth. Sometimes bad news is good news – expectation of government stimulus drove the Shanghai composite +2.2% higher on Monday and more than +6% higher for the week. China’s GDP expanded +7% in the first quarter versus the same period last year. Industrial production slowed to a +5.6% year-over-year gain in March versus +6.8% in February and lower than the +6.9% expected. China’s retail sales are slowing as well as sales rose just +0.71% in March, down from +0.93% in February. For the year, sales were up +10.2%, but below forecasts for a +10.9% gain.
With Tax Day falling on Wednesday of this past week, the Wall Street Journal published a graphic depicting who actually pays the majority of income taxes in America.
The top 40% of wage-earners in the United States pay over 97% of the total income tax, while the bottom 40% pay no taxes (through tax credits, the bottom 40% actually receive money from the government instead of paying taxes to the government).