Stocks didn’t do a whole lot today.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 16,140.1 (-14.2, -0.0%)
- S&P 500: 1,841.6 (+2.9, +0.1%)
- Nasdaq: 4,273.0 (+30.6, +0.7%)
And now the top stories:
- Weather continues to plague U.S. economic data.
- The New York Fed’s Empire State manufacturing index plunged to 4.58 in February from 12.51 in January. The new orders sub-index fell from 10.98 to -0.21. “The decline only reversed the sharp increase seen last month,” said Capital Economics’ Amna Asaf. “The New York Fed didn’t mention the weather as a factor behind the decline, but we suspect it played a role. The index still managed to stay above the boom-bust level of zero.”
- The NAHB housing market index unexpectedly plunged 10 points to 46 in February. This was the biggest decline on record. “Significant weather conditions across most of the country led to a decline in buyer traffic last month,” said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly. “Builders also have additional concerns about meeting ongoing and future demand due to a shortage of lots and labor.”
- The World Gold Council published its 2013 Gold Demand Trends Report this weekend. “2013 proved to be the year of the consumer, with gold jewellery demand close to pre-crisis levels and investment in small bars and coins hitting a record high,” they said. “The result was annual gold demand of 3,756.1 tonnes, valued at US$170bn. However, outweighing the impressive consumer demand were the effects of ETF outflows and lower central bank buying, resulting in 2013 demand 15% below the strong volumes recorded in 2012.”
- According to Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Societe Generale, investors are worried about the emerging markets more than anything else in the world. “Five years ago, EM was ‘safe’ — banks were ‘toxic’,” said Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at BofAML. “In a complete reversal, EM is now the biggest risk to financial market stability, while DM counterparty and default risk is seen as minimal.”
According to new data from the New York Fed, household debt climbed 2.1% to $11.52 trillion in Q4 2013. “[O]verall growth in debt remains considerably more muted in 2013 than it was in 2006, with the exception of auto loans, where 2013 data continued to reflect the strong growth we have been seeing since mid-2011, and student loans,” noted NY Fed researchers. “In the case of student loans, the percentage growth has moderated since 2006, but since the outstanding balance has doubled, the lower percentage growth is associated with comparable dollar increases. Mortgage and home equity line of credit (HELOC) balances, in particular, grew much more slowly in 2013 than in 2006. Second, for all loan types and in both years, balance increases were mainly driven by younger age groups. Again, though, student loans are an exception: even older student loan borrowers continue to increase their borrowing.”
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