Monthly Economic Update

May was another good month for stocks. The S&P 500 gained more than 1%, putting its YTD advance above 7.7%. While the housing market showed spring weakness, hiring bounced back, and most other important economic indicators did not falter. Wall Street seemed little troubled by politics, terrorist incidents, data disappointments, or earnings misses. Overseas, stock benchmarks largely advanced, some impressively. Gasoline futures ascended; mortgage rates descended. Both investors and consumers seemed firmly confident.[1]

Domestic Economic Health

The Department of Labor’s latest employment report showed a rebound in job creation. While March saw just 79,000 net new jobs, that number increased to 211,000 in April. These additions left the main (U-3) jobless rate at 4.4%, a 10-year low. The U-6 rate, including the underemployed, fell 0.3% to 8.6%, another low unseen for nearly a decade. Numbers like these seemed to amount to a green light for a June interest rate hike at the Federal Reserve.[2]

Later in the month, however, word arrived that the Fed was more cautious about a June hike than some investors assumed. May ended with the Bureau of Economic Analysis revising the Q1 GDP number north by half a percent to 1.2%, but that was still far from impressive. Minutes from the May 2–3 Federal Open Market Committee meeting noted that FOMC members “generally judged that it would be prudent to await additional evidence” of the economy picking up before making another policy move. Still, the Fed futures market had the chance of a June rate increase at 83% in late May.[3,4]

Consumers were still very confident, according to the two most-watched household sentiment indexes, though those gauges did not go higher in May. The University of Michigan’s index posted an initial May reading of 97.7 and a final May reading of 97.1, leaving it just 0.1 points above its final April mark. Falling 1.5 points, the Conference Board’s index ended the month at 117.9.[3]

As far as goods and services, the news was generally good. Retail sales advanced 0.4% in April; core retail sales, 0.3%. The fourth month of 2017 saw gains of 0.4% for both personal spending and personal incomes. Hard goods orders were down 0.7% in April—0.8% minus defense orders.[3]

The Institute for Supply Management’s purchasing manager index measuring factory growth ticked up 0.1 points to a solid 54.9 in May. Early in May, ISM’s service sector PMI showed an impressive April reading of 57.5, up 2.3 points from March; that was its second-best reading in the past 12 months.[5,6]

Yearly core consumer inflation dipped under 2% in April. The 1.9% annualized reading on the core Consumer Price Index followed a mere 0.1% April advance for that indicator. Headline consumer inflation was up 0.2% in April, leaving the year-over-year advance for the main CPI at 2.2%. The Producer Price Index rose 0.5% in April, resulting in 2.5% annualized wholesale inflation.[3]

Global Economic Health

The economy of the euro area is clearly in better shape than it has been in some time. Unemployment fell to 9.3% in April, which was an eight-year low and nearly a percentage point lower than in April 2016. A 0.4% spike in consumer prices had left annualized inflation at 1.9% in April, as opposed to 0.2% deflation a year earlier; Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Commission, projected inflation moderating to 1.4% in May. The IHS Markit manufacturing PMI for the eurozone was at 56.8 in May, representing a six-year high; Germany’s factory PMI was even higher at 59.4.[7,8]

As for Chinese manufacturing, the latest news was good. The nation’s official factory and service sector PMIs respectively came in at 51.2 and 54.5 for May; the factory PMI was unchanged from April, while the services PMI rose. These good, if not spectacular, numbers backed up the broad assumptions of economists inside and outside China: The 6.9% growth seen in the year’s first quarter was a nice anomaly. China is officially forecasting 6.5% economic expansion for 2017. Fresh data showed that Japan’s economy grew at the fastest pace in a year in Q1.[9.10]

World Markets

Bulls sent many important benchmarks higher in May. In Europe, the FTSE 100 jumped 4.39% for the month; smaller gains were notched by the IBEX 35 (1.53%), DAX (1.42%), FTSE Eurofirst 300 (0.84%), and CAC-40 (0.31%). Russia’s MICEX took a big loss, sliding 5.77%.[11]

Away from Europe, South Korea’s Kospi had a banner month, surging 6.44%. Argentina’s MERVAL rose nearly that much, advancing 6.14%. Major gains were also made by Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (4.25%) as well as India’s Sensex (4.10%) and Nifty 50 (3.41%). MSCI’s Emerging Markets index added 2.80%; Japan’s Nikkei 225, 2.36%; and Taiwan’s TSE 50, 2.08%. The MSCI World index improved 1.78%. May losses came for Mexico’s Bolsa (0.96%), the Shanghai Composite (1.18%), the TSX Composite (1.52%), Brazil’s Bovespa (2.20%), and Australia’s All Ordinaries (3.13%).[11,12]

Commodities Markets

Cocoa futures pulled off the biggest gain among major commodities, rising 10.74% during May. The rest of the ag sector was mixed, with corn rising 2.52%, soybeans down 3.42%, wheat gaining 2.93%, coffee adding 1.78%, cotton surging 6.94%, and sugar sinking 6.36%. On the COMEX, gold closed on May 31 at $1,268.00 after a mere 0.06% May advance. Silver futures rose 1.02% in May to reach $17.32 as the month ended. Platinum futures lost 0.57% for May; copper futures, 0.41%. The U.S. Dollar Index fell 2.08% across the month to 96.98 on May 31.[13,14]

Crude lost 0.81% for the month on its way to a May 31 NYMEX close of $48.82. Heating oil added 1.78% in May, while natural gas gave back 5.60%. Gasoline futures staged a notable rally, rising 4.59% last month.[13]

Real Estate

Home sales had to cool off at some point in 2017. According to reports from the National Association of Realtors and Census Bureau, the housing market reached that point in April. The NAR reported a 2.3% slip for resales, while the Bureau noted new home sales sliding by 11.4%. April also saw housing starts decline by 2.6%, with permits for future construction down by 2.5%. Pending home sales, tracked by the NAR, declined 1.3% in April.[3]

The latest 20-city composite S&P/Case-Shiller home price index showed home prices rising 1.0% for March, keeping the yearly gain of the index at 5.9%. The broader national Case-Shiller index was up 5.8% annually through March, its best showing in 33 months.[3,15]

As for home loans, Freddie Mac’s May 25 Primary Mortgage Market Survey reported average interest rates on mortgage types as follows: 30-year FRM, 3.95%; 15-year FRM, 3.19%; and 5/1-year ARM, 3.07%. On April 27, all three mortgage classes were more expensive, bearing the following interest rates: 30-year FRM, 4.03%; 15-year FRM, 3.27%; and 5/1-year ARM, 3.12%.[16]

Looking Back … Looking Forward

During May, the Nasdaq Composite set the pace for the consequential U.S. equity indexes. The tech-heavy benchmark rose 2.50% to end the month at 6,198.52. The Dow Industrials improved 0.33% across the month to settle at 21,008.65 on May 31, while the S&P 500 advanced 1.16% to a month-end close of 2,411.80. Small caps stumbled in May: The Russell 2000 fell 2.16% to 1,370.21, leaving it at just +0.96% YTD. The CBOE VIX lost 2.77% to end May at a very low 10.41, and that put the “fear index” down 25.07% on the year.[1]

DJIA +6.31 +18.11 +13.90 +5.42
NASDAQ +15.15 +25.27 +23.85 +13.80
S&P 500 +7.73 +15.01 +16.81 +5.76
10 YR TIPS 0.40% 0.30% -0.50% 2.54%

Sources:,, – 5/31/17[1,17,18,19]

Indices are unmanaged, do not incur fees or expenses, and cannot be invested into directly. These returns do not include dividends. 10-year TIPS real yield = projected return at maturity given expected inflation.

The year is certainly going well on Wall Street. All three major indexes are on pace for double-digit yearly returns. The Nasdaq Composite just advanced for a seventh straight month, a streak unequaled since 2013. Investors widely expect the Fed to hike this month, so a quarter-point rate move will not serve as any kind of market shock. The goings-on in Washington have not distracted the bulls from buying, either. Perhaps the calm we have seen on the Street this spring can last for another month and encourage further gains.[20]

Upcoming Economic Releases

Across the balance of June, here are the key data releases to watch: The ISM services PMI and April factory orders (6/5); the May PPI (6/13); an FOMC rate decision, May retail sales, and the May CPI (6/14); May industrial production (6/15); May groundbreaking and building permits and June’s initial University of Michigan consumer sentiment index (6/16); May existing home sales (6/21); May new home sales (6/23); May hard goods orders (6/26); the June Conference Board consumer confidence index (6/27); May pending home sales (6/28); the last estimate of Q1 growth from the federal government (6/29); and  the final June University of Michigan consumer sentiment index, the May PCE price index, and the May personal spending report (6/30).

Registered Representative, Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisor Representative, Lighthouse Financial, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor. Cambridge and Lighthouse Financial, LLC., are not affiliated.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. MarketingPro, Inc. is not affiliated with any broker or brokerage firm that may be providing this information to you. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is not a solicitation or recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted index of 30 actively traded blue-chip stocks. The NASDAQ Composite Index is an unmanaged, market-weighted index of all over-the-counter common stocks traded on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation System. The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. The Russell 2000 Index measures the performance of the small-cap segment of the U.S. equity universe. The CBOE Volatility Index® (VIX®) is a key measure of market expectations of near-term volatility conveyed by S&P 500 stock index option prices. NYSE Group, Inc. (NYSE:NYX) operates two securities exchanges: the New York Stock Exchange (the “NYSE”) and NYSE Arca (formerly known as the Archipelago Exchange, or ArcaEx®, and the Pacific Exchange). NYSE Group is a leading provider of securities listing, trading and market data products and services. The New York Mercantile Exchange, Inc. (NYMEX) is the world’s largest physical commodity futures exchange and the preeminent trading forum for energy and precious metals, with trading conducted through two divisions – the NYMEX Division, home to the energy, platinum, and palladium markets, and the COMEX Division, on which all other metals trade. The DAX 30 is a Blue Chip stock market index consisting of the 30 major German companies trading on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The CAC-40 Index is a narrow-based, modified capitalization-weighted index of 40 companies listed on the Paris Bourse. The IBEX 35 is the benchmark stock market index of the Bolsa de Madrid, Spain’s principal stock exchange. The EURO STOXX 50 Index, a leading blue-chip index for the Eurozone, provides a blue-chip representation of its supersector leaders. The FTSE MIB (Milano Italia Borsa) is the benchmark stock market index for the Borsa Italiana, the Italian national stock exchange. The FTSE 100 Index is a share index of the 100 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange with the highest market capitalization. The RTS Index (abbreviated: RTSI, Russian: Индекс РТС) is a free-float capitalization-weighted index of 50 Russian stocks traded on the Moscow Exchange. The MSCI World Index is a free-float weighted equity index that includes developed world markets, and does not include emerging markets. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a float-adjusted market capitalization index consisting of indices in more than 25 emerging economies. The Nifty 50 is a well-diversified 50-stock index accounting for 13 sectors of the Indian economy. It is used for a variety of purposes such as benchmarking fund portfolios, index-based derivatives and index funds. The BSE SENSEX (Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index), also-called the BSE 30 (BOMBAY STOCK EXCHANGE) or simply the SENSEX, is a free-float market capitalization-weighted stock market index of 30 well-established and financially sound companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). The Hang Seng Index is a freefloat-adjusted market capitalization-weighted stock market index that is the main indicator of the overall market performance in Hong Kong. Nikkei 225 (Ticker: ^N225) is a stock market index for the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE). The Nikkei average is the most watched index of Asian stocks. The S&P/ASX 200 index is a market-capitalization weighted and float-adjusted stock market index of Australian stocks listed on the Australian Securities Exchange from Standard & Poor’s. The Bovespa Index is a gross total return index weighted by traded volume & is comprised of the most liquid stocks traded on the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange. The S&P/TSX Composite Index is an index of the stock (equity) prices of the largest companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) as measured by market capitalization. The Mexican IPC index (Indice de Precios y Cotizaciones) is a major stock market index which tracks the performance of leading companies listed on the Mexican Stock Exchange. The US Dollar Index measures the performance of the U.S. dollar against a basket of six currencies. Additional risks are associated with international investing, such as currency fluctuations, political and economic instability and differences in accounting standards. This material represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events, or a guarantee of future results. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Investments will fluctuate and when redeemed may be worth more or less than when originally invested. All economic and performance data is historical and not indicative of future results. Market indices discussed are unmanaged. Investors cannot invest in unmanaged indices. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional.


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