Stocks finished the final day of the month — but the first week of a shortened holiday trading week — with a mixed finished after rallying last week during some of the lowest trading volume days of 2016.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 17,802, -71, (-0.4%)
- S&P 500: 2,098, -1, (-0.05%)
- Nasdaq: 4,948, +14, (+0.3%)
- WTI crude oil: $49, -0.7%
- 10-year Treasury: 1.844%
It’s a busy week for US economic data and Tuesday got us started with five pieces of headline economic data to start the week.
Kicking things off this morning was the April report on personal income and spending, which showed incomes rose 0.4% in April — in-line with expectations — while spending rose 1%, the biggest one-month jump in six years and more than the 0.7% increase that was expected.
This report also contained the Fed’s preferred “core” PCE inflation reading, which excludes the more volatile costs of food and and is part of the prices measure in the quarterly GDP report, which showed prices rose 1.6% over last year in April. The Fed is targeting 2% inflation.
“Net, net, consumers picked up the pace in April so you know the entire economy cannot be too far behind,” said MUFG’s Chris Rupkey following the report. “They were much less cautious, and much less uncertain, the presidential primaries be damned.”
Following the income and spending report was the March reading on home prices from S&P/Case-Shiller, which showed home prices in the US rose 0.85% month-on-month and 5.43% over the prior year. “The economy is supporting the price increases with improving labour markets, falling unemployment rates and extremely low mortgage rates,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Down Jones Indices.
The Chicago PMI reading for May fell to 49.3, indicating a slight contraction in manufacturing activity in the American Midwest during the month.
The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index for May fell to 92.6 from 94.7 last month, widely missing expectations for a reading of 92.6.
Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board said this report indicated that, “consumers remain cautious about the outlook for business and labour market conditions.”
Elsewhere in economic data on Tuesday, the Dallas Fed’s May report on manufacturing was another stinker.
The reading came in at -20.8, indicating continued contraction in economic activity in the region which has been severely impacted by the decline in oil prices seen over the last nearly two years now. Of note in this report, however, was commentary from one business owner who just can’t even with the millennials in their workplace.
“We have a serious productivity problem with office workers and estimated that less than 50 per cent of their time is spent on value-creating business activities. The younger workers are often off task, engaged on social media, on the internet, texting on phones and other unproductive activities,” this executive said.
These comments came as part of a longer riff on how the Department of Labour’s new overtime rules will require employers to pay overtime to anyone making less than $47,476 per year, double the previous threshold.
This executive’s complaint added that all these lazy millennials, basically, will now need to be micromanaged since they can’t, it seems, just sit at work for more than 40 hours sort of half-doing the work they’re supposed to without being paid for it.
Also in labour news, the Verizon labour strike that saw 40,000 employees walk off the job during April and May could impact Friday’s jobs report. Jesse Hurwitz at Barclays cautioned that there isn’t necessarily a one-to-one equivalency between striking workers and the impact to Friday’s headline payroll number due to the hiring of temporary workers, though Bloomberg expectations — currently for payroll gains fo 160,000 — reflect some expected impact.
Presumptive Republican nominee for president Donald Trump held a wild press conference on Tuesday.
But looking past the sort of day-to-day drama of Trump’s out-of-nowhere rise from laughingstock of the campaign to one vote away from the White House, Business Insider’s Josh Barro argued in a great column on Tuesday that Trump, for those of you who think about things in financial market equivalencies, is the ultimate tail risk candidate.
“Trump calls for a huge risk premium, because while he probably wouldn’t be a disastrous president, the low-probability disasters he might cause would be immensely costly,” Josh writes.
“Some of them involve nuclear weapons and global mass deaths. Pricing those risks in properly should push his share price comfortably below Clinton’s, even if you think she is very bad.”
Here’s a fun chart:
Earlier this month I argued that Trump, for the political world, represents the learning of a lesson financial markets (in theory!) learned from the meltdown of Long-Term Capital Management in 1998.
Which is another way of saying Trump broke the model and proved that “The Party Decides” sorts of political maxims about what can and cannot happen in politics do not apply absolutely.
Josh’s column takes this argument a bit further, looking at what he thinks would be the actual distribution of outcomes inside of a Trump presidency. You might disagree with any or all of Josh’s argued outcomes under a Trump administration, but it is this sort of distributional thinking that I expect will become a major part of the discussion in the coming months.
Saudi Arabia might pull a Qatar (they’re issuing debt).