It Was a Busy Week
Weekly Update – November 5, 2012
It was a busy week as Hurricane Sandy pounded the East Coast; securities exchanges were forced to close on Monday and Tuesday; and a slew of economic reports were released. Stocks ended the shortened week with a selloff Friday, erasing gains made earlier, and finishing basically flat. For the week, the S&P gained 0.16% and the Dow climbed 0.12%, while the Nasdaq trimmed 0.19%.[i]
Although the economic impact of Hurricane Sandy won’t be known for weeks or months, the true cost of a disaster like this is always the human suffering. It is painful to see beautiful homes and townships devastated by natural forces, and our thoughts go out to all those impacted. If you or someone you love has been affected in any way, and if there is anything we can do, please don’t hesitate to let us know.
On the bright side – without making light of this disaster – it should be noted that major storms rarely have a lasting impact on the U.S. economy. Generally, even large disasters like this one aren’t costly enough to damage the enormous economic machine that is the U.S. economy. Insurance companies may be stuck footing a large bill, and the government may have to pay for relief efforts, but economic snags of this type are usually temporary. The major exception to this general rule was Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and caused over $100 billion in estimated damages. One of the major reasons Katrina was so expensive was because of the area’s economic importance as a major shipping port and oil and gas hub. Although the effects of Sandy are widespread, the storm would have had to shut down major cities for weeks to achieve similar effects.[ii] Fortunately, it passed somewhat quickly, and major recovery efforts are underway.
One note of positive news could be found in last week’s Labor Department report showing that employers added 171,000 new jobs last month. Although the unemployment rate ticked slightly upwards to 7.9%, the increase was attributed to discouraged workers restarting job searches, which is a positive sign for the economy.[iii] This good news combined with recent consumer confidence highs indicate that we may be able to expect consumer spending to increase during the holiday season, which would be excellent for retailers.
As earnings season continued last week, markets responded positively to some solid results. Consumer discretionary stocks edged higher as several well known travel companies and luxury retailers beat estimates.[iv] Overall, the corporate earnings picture has improved as more companies have reported; according to November 2nd data, of the 378 S&P 500 companies that have reported so far, 61.9% have beat expectations, which is in line with the 62% average since 1994. While we may see additional volatility in the weeks ahead, solid earnings and upbeat economic reports mean that investors have a lot to be pleased about right now.[v]
Monday: ISM Non-Mfg. Index
Wednesday: EIA Petroleum Status Report
Thursday: International Trade, Jobless Claims
Friday: Import and Export Prices, Consumer Sentiment