Stocks completed a quiet August and got off to a positive start in September as Friday’s employment report was mostly uneventful. The U.S. added 151,000 jobs last month, less than the 180,000 that economists expected and well below July’s revised 275,000. Other economic indicators released this past week included a slump in manufacturing with the Institute of Supply Management’s reading falling below 50 and the biggest one month drop in more than two years. Inflation stayed relatively steady in August at a core annual rate of 1.6% below the level that the Federal Reserve sees as problematic. Hence, the ongoing tug of war between a rate hike and a pass at the September FOMC meeting lingers on.
For the week, equities moved higher by about 0.5% despite a sharp sell-off in oil prices. West Texas crude plunged $3.20/bbl. over the past five trading sessions to close at $44.44. Most industry sectors were positive, led by financial stocks, which appear to be undervalued given an eventual hike in rates later this year. While basic material stocks showed some strength, energy and health care were each slightly negative by 0.5%. Transportation stocks were a bright spot with airlines moving nicely higher.
Looking ahead at the holiday-shortened trading week, few economic announcements will probably keep stocks in a trading range. However, until the Fed decides on a direction in interest rates, the bulls remain in charge. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend.
Here is the answer to last week’s trivia question: Otis Elevator Co. was founded in Yonkers, NY in 1852 by Elisha Otis. Otis is a subsidiary of what company? General Electric, Honeywell International, United Technologies or Siemens AG. Answer: Otis Elevator Co. was bought by United Technologies Corp. in 1976.
Today’s Trivia Question: Dunkin’ Brands, headquartered in Canton, Mass., owns the iconic Dunkin’ Donuts franchise and what specialty ice cream chain? Baskin-Robbins, Ben & Jerry’s, Carvel or Cold Stone Creamery.