First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 15,376.1, +75.4, +0.4%
- S&P 500: 1,687.9, +4.5, +0.2%
- NASDAQ: 3,722.1, +6.2, +0.1%
And now the top stories:
- The economic data was not great today.
- U.S. retail sales climbed by just 0.2% in August, missing expectations for a 0.5% gain. Excluding autos and gas, sales rose by 0.1%; economists were looking for 0.3% growth.
- “But the key point is that the underlying trend is still improving,” said Capital Economics’ Paul Dales. “Thanks in part to the 0.5% m/m rise in underlying sales in July, the three-month-on-three-month annualised growth rate rose to 3.1% in August, from 2.6% in July. This is a welcome turnaround after the tax hikes in January generated a slowdown in sales growth in the first half of the year.”
- The University of Michigan’s preliminary consumer confidence index fell unexpectedly dropped to 76.8 in September from 82.1 in August. Economists were looking for a print of 82.0. The economic conditions sub-index fell to 91.8 from 95.2, while the economic outlook sub-index fell to 67.2 from 73.7. “Consumers have become more apprehensive about potential changes in monetary and fiscal policies in the coming months,” said the University of Michigan.
- “Fiscal policy fears have tended to affect the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index more than other confidence measures: that was the pattern late last year before the feared fiscal cliff,” said UBS’s U.S. economics team. “This year’s fiscal debate should be far less threatening than last year’s: it does not carry the same potential for broad tax hikes, and the impact of sequester is now known to be fairly limited. In turn, the drag on even the University of Michigan confidence measure should not be as large as it was last year, and the effect on spending should be even less.”
- “Significant monetary stimulus, the end of fiscal austerity, a booming housing market, a cheap dollar, record corporate cash balances…if the US economy does not significantly accelerate in coming quarters, it never will,” warned Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Michael Hartnett.
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