Week in Review
Along with most investors, I am glad to close the books on January. The Dow Industrials were lower by about 4% for the first month of the new trading year and ongoing headwinds in Europe and some of the so-called emerging markets do not bode well for a reversal in sentiment anytime soon. Here at home, companies are doing quite well organically, but are being hampered by the strong dollar thus ratcheting down sales and profit figures for business conducted oversees. U.S. economic growth prospects were also taken by surprise this past week, as GDP rose a modest 2.6% last quarter, well below expectations and far below the 4.6% and 5.0% seen in the previous two quarters. For the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 500 points or nearly 3% and the S&P 500 and NASDAQ did not fare much better with declines of 2.8% and 2.5%, respectively. I could not find a single industry sector that showed a positive change for the week and technology stocks were particularly hard hit falling about 4% on average. Crude oil made a modest advance to $48.24/bbl. from $45.59/bbl. last Friday, but gold eased to $1,278.50/oz. Fourth quarter earnings results have been volatile with companies pointing to negative exchange rates whenever estimates are missed. On Wednesday, Gilead Sciences will report earnings estimated at $2.20 per share up from $0.55, but guidance will be key as GLD is facing mounting pricing pressures and competition on some of its marquee drugs. While central banks here and abroad continue to hold down rates and provide for other quantitative easing measures, the results have not shown to be very positive. Any good economic news is often offset with some bad. Housing data is showing some signs of strength, but durable goods orders fell in December and retail sales were less than stellar, despite lower prices at the pumps. Unemployment rates are down, but improvement in wage rates haven’t budged. In all, stocks remain rather pricey, even after the January pullback. But the lack of compelling investment alternatives in this historically low interest-rate environment suggests that staying the course might be the best option at this time.
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