Various factors are influencing market sentiment. When the focus has been on the healthy economy and the mostly upbeat second-quarter earnings performance, stocks have rallied. Conversely, when the attention has turned to tariffs and trade and to other global headwinds (most recently the financial crisis in Turkey), equities generally have weakened.
The employment outlook remains generally upbeat. True, job growth did slow in July, with 157,000 positions being added, or 30,000 fewer than forecast.
Earnings reports were still flowing in as July ended and August began. In general, the results have exceeded expectations. True, there have been shortfalls (and a few from high-profile companies), and in some cases, there has been disappointing guidance given for the coming quarters.
The economy was on a roll as the second half began, with much of this strength apparent in the manufacturing and non-manufacturing areas. The gains shown by these broad industrial and consumer categories were especially noteworthy in new orders and production.
Continuing economic tensions with China are front and center on Wall Street these days, with our fraught commercial dealings with that fast-growing nation in the headlines almost daily.
The first half is ending on a high note, with strong progress being made in reducing the unemployment rate, in narrowing the trade imbalance (with the deficit declining sharply in March and April), and in boosting retail spending (with sales coming in well above consensus forecasts during May).
May’s uplifting jobs report helped to turn around a stock market that had come under duress from global headwinds. To wit, the government’s survey showing a 223,000 increase in jobs in May, an 18-year low in unemployment, and a 2.7% rise in average hourly earnings over the past year was greeted warmly on Wall Street, with stocks rising for several days on this news.
Geopolitics are taking center stage on Wall Street these days, with the on-again, off-again summit with North Korea, the intensifying trade standoff with China, and the political and economic dramas unfolding in Italy and Spain topping the list of current global headwinds.
Employment growth slowed as the old year concluded, with the nation creating just 148,000 jobs in December. That was below both consensus and the 252,000 jobs added in November. Also, the labor-force participation rate remained at an unimposing 62.7%.
The economy is starting out the new year in fine form, extending the positive momentum in place since last spring. For example, recent weeks have seen strength in a range of housing categories, holiday sales, and manufacturing across the nation, with this latter sector buoyed by gains in new orders, production, exports, and pricing.