Archives For Todd Burkhalter

Good Greece. Bad Iran

February 21, 2012 — Leave a comment



Weekly Update – February 20, 2012


Despite a turbulent week filled with mixed news from Europe and rising Middle East tensions, stocks closed higher on hopes that Chinese assistance would mean a bailout plan for Greece. The S&P 500 closed at 1361.23, a level not seen in nearly a year, having gained 8.2% so far in 2012. Other major indexes also rose for the week, the Dow advancing 1.2% and the Nasdaq climbing 1.7%.[i] 


In not-so-great news, crude oil prices rose for a third straight day on U.S. markets Friday, topping $103 a barrel, sparked by increased saber rattling from Iran over its nuclear energy policies. A sustained surge in prices could weigh on the global economic recovery. Drivers are seeing the effect at the pump, with gas prices up by 0.9% since January, topping $3.50 a gallon in many places. Every added penny at the gas pump diverts roughly $1 billion in consumer spending away from other sectors of the economy.[ii] 


Thankfully, inflation isn’t looking bad overall. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) only rose 0.02% in January, which was in line with expectations. The Core CPI, which excludes food and energy, also matched expectations, gaining 0.02%. Year-over-year gains were 2.9% for the general CPI and 2.3% for the Core CPI. If overall inflation was higher, economic growth could be threatened by rising prices, and the Fed would likely respond by raising interest rates. The Fed’s statement following the January FOMC report described price pressures as “subdued”, and indicated that they plan to keep rates low until at least late 2014.[iii] 


In simple English, last week was really a mixed bag. While we are happy with the stock market’s performance, progress in Europe, and low inflation, unrest in the Middle East is a wild card. Every time bad news out of that region hits headlines, speculators drive gas prices through the roof. At this point, all we can do is monitor the situation, hoping that with diplomatic pressure, Iran will listen to reason.



U.S. Markets closed for President’s Day


Existing Home Sales  

Jobless Claims, FHFA Housing Price Index, EIA Petroleum Status Report



Consumer Sentiment, New Home Sales

What Goes Up….

February 13, 2012 — Leave a comment



Weekly Update – February 13, 2012 



As the old expression goes; what goes up must come down. During the final minutes of trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average trimmed its gains, falling 89.23 points, or 0.7%, locking in a weekly loss of 0.5%. For the day, only one of the Dow’s 30 components rose. The broad-based S&P 500 fared similarly, retreating 9.31 points, or 0.7%, for a loss of 0.2% for the week, while the tech heavy Nasdaq declined 23.35 points, or 0.8%, ending the week down 0.1%.[i] 


In an action reminiscent of 2011, worries about stalling efforts to keep Greece from defaulting sparked this pre-weekend decline. As stocks fell, the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) Volatility Index (VIX) jumped above 20 for the first time in nearly two weeks, rising more than 11%.[ii] While we don’t view this as a major cause for alarm, it is a reminder that all is not yet well with our European counterparts. After a week dominated by both hopes and fears about a nation at the center of Europe’s debt crisis, stocks finally snapped their five-week winning streak as negotiations faltered.


Equity markets have been red-hot this year, and frankly, last week’s pullback should come as little surprise. If stocks continued their ascent at the same fiery pace we’ve seen so far in 2012, the S&P would end the year up over 60%! Such remarkable gains are completely unrealistic to expect, and would be totally unsustainable. Healthy markets move up and down on a daily basis. While it is generally accepted that the stock market will grow in value over time, short-term movements can happen for a variety of reasons too numerous to list. It’s just the nature of the stock market.


It may be easier said than done, but we encourage you not to let unpredictable short-term moves in the market overly influence your investment decisions. In the long run, we believe Europe is going to muddle through this, though there are bound to be bumps along the way.


What drives your decision making progress? Would you like to discuss our process?




Tuesday –

NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, Retail Sales, Import and Export Prices, Business Inventories

Wednesday – Empire State Manufacturing Survey, Treasury International Capital, Industrial Production, Housing Market Index, EIA Petroleum Status Report, FOMC Minutes

Thursday – Housing Starts, Jobless Claims, Producer Price Index, Ben Bernanke Speaks at 9:00 AM ET, Philadelphia Fed Survey

Friday – Consumer Price Index, Leading Indicators







Weekly Update – January 30, 2012

With only a couple trading days left in January, stocks are positioned to lock in four straight months of gains and finish with their best performance since 1997.[i] Unfortunately, some momentum was lost last week after the government said the U.S. economy expanded at a slower-than-expected pace in the fourth quarter. For the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.5%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq notched modest gains.[ii] 

Because the figures reported by the Commerce Department were lower than expected and stocks pulled back, should that lead us to conclude that economic growth was poor? Not at all. Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation’s economic health, grew at a 2.8% annual rate during the last three months of the year, which is a major improvement from the 1.8% we saw during the third quarter, and is the fastest growth we’ve experienced since the second quarter of 2010.[iii] 

On the other hand, when you look closely at the numbers, there are some important points to note. One is that the majority of the growth came from one area – business inventories. Private businesses increased inventories $56.0 billion in the fourth quarter, following a decrease of $2.0 billion in the third. Of course that sounds wonderful, but it can also be a double-edged sword. While it shows that businesses are optimistic about the health of the economy and feel confident they can sell their goods, if sales fall short of expectations, it can create a financial burden for them in the future. Only time will tell how this works out.

Another important point is that “real final sales of domestic product” – GDP less the change in private inventories – only increased 0.8% in the fourth quarter, compared with an increase of 3.2% in the third. So while GDPas a wholepicked up in the fourth quarter, real salesslowed down. This is likely one of the reasons why the Federal Reserve lowered its outlook for the economy in 2012, announcing that they expect it to grow between 2.2% and 2.7% this year.[iv] 

What’s next? The week ahead is a heavy one for economic data that includes personal income, consumer confidence, auto sales, manufacturing, construction, and the key nonfarm payrolls figure at the end of the week. In addition to the economic news, nearly 100 companies in the S&P 500 will report quarterly earnings.

Why are all these numbers important? For months, U.S. economic indicators have taken a back seat to headlines out of Europe, but as confidence grows that the Eurozone will survive, focus should gradually shift back to the health of the U.S. economy. We’ll be watching this data and sharing our thoughts with you along the way.


Monday –
Tuesday – Employment Cost Index, Redbook, S&P Case-Shiller HPI, Chicago PMI, Consumer Confidence
Wednesday – Motor Vehicle Sales, ADP Employment Report, ISM Manufacturing Index, Construction Spending, EIA Petroleum Status Report
Thursday – Jobless Claims, Productivity and Costs
Friday – Monster Employment Index, Employment Situation, Factory Orders, ISM Non-Manufacturing Index

Personal Income and Outlays