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Stock Market Report For Week Ended October 14, 2016

Global equities slipped modestly this week, weighed down by a firmer US dollar and rising long-term interest rates. Volatility, as measured by the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX), rose to 15.2 this week from 13.4 a week ago. Oil prices held steady above $50 per barrel for West Texas Intermediate crude. Global Brent held near $52 per barrel. The yield on the US 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.76% from 1.73% last week.


Fed lays groundwork for rate hike
The minutes of the September meeting of the FOMC, the US Federal Reserve's rate setting committee, show that several officials felt a rate hike is needed “fairly soon,” and that a reasonable argument could be made for either an increase at that (September) meeting or after receiving additional information on the labor market or inflation. The FOMC next meets in November, a few days before the presidential election. Most observers expect the committee to wait until the December meeting to hike rates.

Bank of England making rival central bankers green with envy
Most central banks have spent the past eight years trying to stoke inflation and weaken their currency. Only one major central bank has succeeded, and it didn’t even really try. Although the BOE cut rates and relaunched quantitative easing after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in June, Brexit itself should get the lion’s share of the credit (or blame, depending on your point of view). UK long-term yields have risen sharply in the past month, more than doubling from 0.52% on August 12 to 1.10% today. A plunging pound has increased inflation expectations, but has also boosted the FTSE 100, which is made up primarily of multinationals, many of which will benefit from favorable currency translation when overseas earnings are brought home to the United Kingdom. This week, the UK government claimed that a “hard” Brexit, in which UK companies lose access to the EU single market, could cost the government £66 billion per year in tax receipts and gross domestic product could fall between 5.4% and 9.5% after 15 years.

Weak global growth hits Chinese trade
Chinese exports declined 10% in September, data released this week showed. Imports fell too, down 1.9% from the prior month. Weak global demand is blamed for the poor showing. Offsetting the trade gloom somewhat was the first rise in Chinese producer prices in nearly five years, reported Friday. Producer prices rose 0.1% year over year in September, ending a price slump that began in January 2012.

European economy holding its own
Like the UK economy, the eurozone economy appears to be taking Brexit mostly in stride, and data released this week were mostly upbeat. German exports climbed 5.4% in August, the biggest rise since 2010. Investor confidence in Germany improved as well, with the ZEW index rising to 6.2 in October from 0.5 in September. Finally, eurozone industrial production beat expectations, jumping 1.6% in August.

OPEC producing more oil than ever
For all the talk of production caps, or cuts, in recent weeks, the reality is that OPEC has never pumped more oil than it did last month. According to the International Energy Agency, OPEC produced 33.64 million barrels of oil per day in September. World production peaked a year ago, at 97.2 million barrels per day, in September 2015. Over the past year, OPEC production has risen 900,000 barrels per day.

US retail sales match expectations
US retail sales rose 0.6% in September, while August sales figures were revised to -0.2% from an initial 0.3%. Combined with solid employment figures, this reinforces the idea that the Fed will hike rates before the end of the year. To illustrate the strength of the labor market, US weekly jobless claims this week held at their lowest level since 1973, when the economy and population were significantly smaller than today.

South African finance minister charged with fraud
Pravin Gordhan, the South African finance minister, was charged with fraud this week for allegedly authorizing an illegal early retirement package for a deputy when Gordhan headed the country’s revenue service and then rehiring the deputy as a consultant. Analysts fear political instability could prompt credit rating agencies to cut South Africa’s sovereign debt rating, which sits just above junk status. A downgrade would push up the country’s borrowing costs.

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