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Stock Market Report For Week Ended November 14, 2014

Stocks hover near highs

Stock prices were remarkably steady through most of the week, especially in comparison to recent volatility, but the market managed to end the week with modest gains that took the large-cap benchmarks to new records. The S&P 500 Index's largest daily change was on Monday, when it rose 0.31%, but its largest fluctuation from close to close over the remainder of the week was 0.07%—a remarkable shift from recent weeks, when 1% or even 2% swings were common. The Nasdaq Composite fared better than the other benchmarks, helped by strength in technology stocks.

Jobs gains give modest lift to U.S. consumer

A relatively thin economic calendar and the lack of any major surprises may have been reasons for the market’s stability. Weekly jobless claims rose slightly more than expected, but investors were encouraged by separate data showing healthy hiring in September. The number of people leaving jobs voluntarily hit its highest level since before the financial crisis, a sign of Americans' greater confidence in their ability to find another job. The better job market was reflected in a rise in the University of Michigan's index of consumer sentiment, and retail sales in October rose a bit more than expected.

Falling gas prices boost retailers

The week was quiet on the earnings front, as well. Only a few major companies reported results during the week, with the bulk of the third-quarter earnings reporting season already past. Reflecting the positive government retail sales data released Friday, some retailers reported better-than-expected profits and sales outlooks. Most notable among them was discount giant Wal-Mart, which reported that falling gas prices had helped its lower-income consumers and resulted in the company's first sales increase in two years.

Reason for falling oil prices is important

Indeed, energy stocks were laggards for much of the week, as the price of oil continued to decline. T. Rowe Price Chief Economist Alan Levenson notes that a supply-based decline in oil prices—as opposed to one driven by slowing economic growth and shrinking demand, as occurred in 2008—is a positive development for the U.S. economy.

Oil markets are responding to global supply

The dramatic increase in U.S. shale oil production in recent years has been one factor in the supply shift, but T. Rowe Price managers and analysts in London and elsewhere have kept a close eye on growing production in overseas markets as well. The high prices in the last decade provoked massive investment in new production, which is likely to keep the price of oil contained for the foreseeable future.

 

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