REUTERS/Kevork DjansezianHero cat Tara, held by owner Roger Triantafilo (R), licks its whiskers as it is surrounded by news media after throwing the ceremonial first pitch before the Bakersfield Blaze and Lancaster Jayhawks Single A baseball game at Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield, California May 20, 2014.
The stock markets recovered yesterday’s losses and then some.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 16,533.0 (+158.7, +0.9%)
- S&P 500: 1,888.0 (+15.2, 0.8%)
- Nasdaq: 4,131.5, (+34.6, +0.8%)
And now the top stories:
- The day kicked off with new weekly data from the Mortgage Banker’s Association, which showed that mortgage applications climbed 0.9% from the prior week. During the period, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell 6 basis points to 4.33%. This seemed to encourage refinancing activity, which grew 4%.
- In other housing-related news, home improvement retailer Lowe’s reported disappointing first quarter earnings. However, management was a bit more upbeat on its outlook. “Performance has improved in May which, together with our strengthening execution, gives us the confidence to reaffirm our sales and operating profit outlook for the year,” said CEO Robert Niblock.
- We sort of heard from the Federal Reserve twice today. Sort of.
- At 2:00 p.m. ET, the Fed published the minutes from its April 29-30 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. One key takeaway from the minutes was that the Fed thought the risk of inflation was not worrisome enough to derail efforts to lower unemployment. From the minutes: “It was also noted that because inflation was expected to remain well below the Committee’s 2 percent objective and the unemployment rate was still above participants’ estimates of its longer-run normal level, the Committee did not, at present, face a tradeoff between its employment and inflation objectives, and an expansion of aggregate demand would result in further progress relative to both objectives.”
- Before that, Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave the commencement speech at NYU’s graduation ceremony today. While she didn’t say anything about monetary policy or her outlook on the economy, she spoke very highly of her predecessor Ben Bernanke. From her speech: “One aspect of grit that I think is particularly important is the willingness to take a stand when circumstances demand it. Such circumstances may not be all that frequent, but in every life, there will be crucial moments when having the courage to stand up for what you believe will be immensely important … My predecessor at the Fed, Chairman Ben Bernanke, demonstrated such courage, especially in his response to the threat of the financial crisis. To stabilize the financial system and restore economic growth, he took courageous actions that were unprecedented in ambition and scope. He faced relentless criticism, personal threats, and the certainty that history would judge him harshly if he was wrong. But he stood up for what he believed was right and necessary. Ben Bernanke’s intelligence and knowledge served him well as Chairman. But his grit and willingness to take a stand were just as important. I hope you never are confronted by challenges this great, but you too will face moments in life when standing up for what you believe can make all the difference.”
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