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Stock Market Report For Week Ended September 16, 2016

Global equities were mixed this week, with markets continuing to focus on central bank policy, which appears to be reaching its effective limits in places like Europe and Japan. Volatility spiked higher this week, with the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX) rising to 17 from 14.72 a week ago. US 10-year Treasury yields rose to 1.69% from 1.67% last week while trading above 1.70% during the course of this week. West Texas Intermediate crude slumped to $42.82 per barrel from $46.50 while global Brent dropped to $45.66 from $48.65.


Soft US data take some pressure off Fed
Try as the US Federal Reserve might to prepare the markets for an eventual hike in short-term interest rates, soft US economic data and a spike in market volatility combined to lower the odds of a move at next week’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting or at the final meeting of the year in December. While there is a meeting in early November, markets widely expect the Fed to refrain from changing policy just days before a presidential election. Sub-par August retail sales (-0.3%) and a dip in industrial production (-0.4%) were widely viewed as allowing the Fed to hold rates steady in the months ahead despite a mild uptick in consumer prices (0.2%). The advance in CPI was led by medical costs and rents.

UK economy holding up in wake of referendum
In contrast to the United States, UK August retail sales dipped 0.2%, but gangbuster July sales were revised even higher, to 1.9% from 1.4% previously, the biggest gain in 14 months. Meanwhile, the UK unemployment rate held steady at 4.9% in the three months to July, the Office of National Statistics reported. The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee met Thursday and held policy steady, but indicated it could ease again before the end of the year if necessary.

China posts solid sales, production data
China’s economy is showing signs of modest improvement, recent data show. In August, industrial output advanced 6.3% while retail sales rose 10.6%. Fixed asset investment held steady at 8.1%. Many observers remain concerned over China’s debt build-up. Recent economic stabilization reduces the odds of further near-term monetary stimulus from the People’s Bank of China.

Oil markets should remain in surplus into late 2017: IEA
The International Energy Agency forecast this week that the surplus in the global oil market will last into late 2017, longer than previously expected. A month ago, the agency predicted the market would return to balance this year.

US household incomes jumped last year
According to the US Census Bureau, median household incomes rose 5.2% in 2015, the largest annual rise on record. The increase was the first in seven years but remains 1.6% below the 2007 level before the recession and 2.4% below the 1999 peak. The median household income stood at $56,516 in 2015.

David Cameron resigns from UK parliament
Former prime Minister David Cameron resigned his seat in Parliament this week, saying he did not want his continued presence in the legislative body to be a distraction for his replacement, Theresa May.

North Korea tests nuclear warhead, seeks recognition
After an underground test of a nuclear warhead late last week, the North Korean government pushed for recognition as a legitimate nuclear weapons state. The US countered the test by sending two B-1B bombers to fly over South Korea in a show of force.

Swiss National Bank retains deeply negative policy rate
The Swiss National Bank held its policy rate steady at -0.75% at its quarterly rate-setting meeting. The bank said that the negative interest rate and its willingness to intervene in the foreign exchange market are intended to make Swiss franc investments less attractive, easing upward pressure on the currency.

Bank of Japan exploring policy options 
The Japanese press this week reported that the Bank of Japan may explore pushing policy rates deeper into negative territory in a strategy shift. Quantitative easing has been the centerpiece of the BOJ strategy up to now, but the bank is reaching the limits of assets available for purchase. It is thought that concentrating policy on negative rates and buying fewer long-term bonds may cause the Japanese yield curve to steepen, potentially taking some of the pressure off of insurance companies and pension funds. The BOJ is thought to have abandoned any thought of buying foreign government bonds, which would open the central bank up to charges of currency manipulation.


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