Economic update for the week ending August 13, 2016

Stocks up slightly this week – The DOW, S&P, and NASDAQ hit record highs again on Thursday, as investors responded to higher oil prices, and strong second quarter earnings from several large retailers. With almost all companies in the S&P 500 reporting, 69% beat analysts’ earnings estimates. Unfortunately, Friday after a disappointing retail sales report, and a drop in the producer price index stocks dropped as investors digested that spending stalled in July, despite two months of very strong job growth. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the week at 18,576.47, up slightly from 18,543.53 last Friday. The S&P 500 closed the week at 2,184.05, up slightly from 2,182.87 last week. The NASDAQ closed the week at 5,232.90, up from last week’s close of 5,221.12.

Bond yields drop – Weak July retail sales data, and falling producer prices caused bond yields to drop. It is widely felt that with inflation below the Fed’s target rate, and spending softening the Fed will not be raising its key interest rates. The 10 year U.S. Treasury bond yield closed the week at 1.51%, down from 1.59% last Friday. The 30-year U.S. Treasury bond closed at 2.23%, down from 2.32% last week. Mortgage rates follow bond yields so we watch bond yields closely.

Mortgage rates remain near record lows – The Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Survey released on August 11, 2016 showed that average mortgage rates from lenders surveyed for the most popular mortgage products were as follows: The 30-year fixed rate average was 3.45%. The 15-year fixed average rate was 2.77%. The 5/1 ARM average rate was 2.74%. 

Retail sales unchanged from June – The Commerce Department reported that retail sales in July showed no increase over June’s figure which increased 0.8% from May. Still retail sales rose 2.3% from a year ago, but economists had expected sales to rise 0.4% in July. After two months of very strong job growth experts were not expecting spending to weaken. 

Producer Price Index takes unexpected drop – The Labor Department reported that the producer price index, a key measure of inflation dropped 0.4% last month. Year over year the index shows that producer prices have slipped 0.2% since last July. Fed officials have repeatedly expressed concern about low inflation, as a strong dollar and low oil prices have muted prices.