As last week ended, tension between the U.S. and some of its greatest allies was on the rise. Trade remained a hot-button topic ahead of the G-7 meeting in Canada, but investors seemed largely unfazed by the drama. In fact, all 3 domestic indexes posted strong results: The S&P 500 added 1.62% and the NASDAQ gained 1.21%, with both indexes notching their 3rd week of gain in a row. The Dow ended Friday up 2.77% for the week – recording both its highest level and largest weekly gain since March.International stocks were also up, with the MSCI EAFE increasing by 0.91%.
While geopolitical headlines keep unfolding, new data continues to indicate that the U.S. economy is on solid ground. Let’s examine a few updates we received last week:
The trade deficit decreased in April.
The latest trade data was largely positive, with the trade deficit hitting a 7-month low and coming in nearly $3 billion lower than expected. In April, exports reached their highest level in history. The economists at First Trust believe that this strong performance could push the 2nd-quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as high as 5%.
The labor market continues to tighten.
The latest Job Openings and Labor Market Survey (JOLTS) gave an interesting perspective on our current labor market. Right now, more jobs are available than unemployed people looking for them. Since JOLTS began almost 20 years ago, this has never happened before. The data indicates that employers are struggling to hire people for open jobs – and that the economy is at full employment.
The services sector is expanding.
May data from the ISM non-manufacturing index showed that the services sector has experienced its 2nd-best beginning of a year since the index launched in 1997. Business activity and new orders had very positive performance, which could contribute to continuing service-sector growth for the months ahead. The report also showed prices increasing and provided more data that employers are having a hard time filling jobs in this tight labor market.
What is ahead this week?
We will receive two major central bank reports this week – and the historic U.S.-North Korea summit is on the docket as well.
President Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un are meeting on Tuesday. The talks should cover North Korea’s nuclear program, but no one can say for sure what market impact it may have.
On a more predictable note, most analysts expect the Federal Reserve to announce its latest interest rate hike on Wednesday. While the markets have likely priced in this increase already, the Fed’s projections for the rest of 2018 could affect investor sentiment.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, experts expect the European Central Bank (ECB) will announce a plan to finally wind down its quantitative easing. If the ECB doesn’t share a timeline for ending this recession-era program, investors may interpret the move as a sign that policymakers are concerned about the EU’s economic outlook.
With a lot to consider this week, we encourage you to remember that many data updates indicate our economy is performing well. As the information unfolds, we’re here to help you separate relevant reports from headline hype. Contact us anytime if you have questions about how these details may affect your financial life.