Stocks went nowhere in a quiet trading session ahead of the Labour Day holiday weekend. As Rich Barry of NYSE put it in his mid-afternoon update on Friday: “Felt like I was the only knucklehead commuting to work this morning.” Despite the quiet trading session, the S&P 500 did manage to make a new all-time closing high for the third time this week.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 17,089.83, +10.3, (+0.06%)
- S&P 500: 2,003.26, +6.5, (+0.3%)
- Nasdaq: 4,575.45, +17.8, (+0.4%)
And now, the top stories on Friday:
1. Personal spending unexpectedly declined in July, falling 0.1% against expectations for a gain of 0.2%. Personal income also came in below expectations, growing 0.2% against expectations for a 0.4% increase. The personal income and outlays report also contained the latest personal consumption expenditures, or PCE, data, the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation. “Core” PCE, which excludes the more volatile cost of food and energy, rose 1.5% year-over-year, right in line with expectations. Following the report, Michael Gapen at Barclays said, “Altogether, the report suggests a much softer start to consumption in Q3 and is a negative for our GDP tracking estimate as the level of real personal spending in July is below the Q2 average. After today’s report, we are now tracking 2.2% for Q3 real GDP, down five-tenths from 2.7% prior to the report.”
2. The University of Michigan’s final consumer confidence survey for August came in at 82.5, topping expectations for a reading of 80.0. This reading was also far better than the 79.2 preliminary reading from earlier this month. The current conditions index ticked up to 99.8 from a preliminary reading of 99.6, the highest reading since 2007.
3. The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago’s PMI for August came in at 64.3, blowing away expectations for a 56.5 reading. This was also up signifcantly from July 52.6 reading, which was the lowest reading in a year. Following the report, Dean Maki at Barclays said, “The Chicago PMI had fallen sharply in July after strong readings in Q2 2014; the August rebound suggests that production in this region is on a solid track in Q3 2014 despite a soft July reading.”
4. Among the biggest stock gainers on Friday was Splunk, up nearly 20% after the software company on Thursday night reported revenue of $US101.5 million, up 52% over the prior year. Splunk also raised its revenue outlook for the current fiscal year to $US423-$428 million from a prior outlook of $US402-$410 million.
5. The Russian ruble fell further against the U.S. dollar, bringing its losses over the last two months to more than 8% as one U.S. dollar now buys nearly 37 rubles. The most recent slide in the value of the ruble comes after tensions between Russia and Ukraine flared on Thursday. Also on Friday, Oppenheimer Funds, the largest fund shareholder in Carlsberg — which is one of the foreign companies most highly exposed to the Russian economy — cut its stake in the brewer. Earlier this month, Carlsberg said sales volume in its Eastern Europe segment were down 20% in the second quarter.
6. On Friday the U.K. government raised the current terror threat level to “severe,” indicating that an attack is “highly likely,” though the British government said no intelligence suggests an attack is imminent. British Home Secretary Theresa May said on Friday that, “The increase in the threat level is related to developments in Syria and Iraq where terrorist groups are planning attacks against the West. Some of these plots are likely to involve foreign fighters who have traveled there from the UK and Europe to take part in those conflicts.” This is the first time the threat level has been raised to “severe” since 2011. In the U.S., the Obama administration said it had no plans to follow Britain’s lead.
7. Markets are closed in the U.S. on Monday in observation of the Labour Day holiday. U.S. markets won’t be closed for a holiday until Thanksgiving, so enjoy the day off Monday and celebrate the unofficial end of summer.
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