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Stock Market Report For Week Ended August 11, 2017

STRING OF RECORD HIGHS, LOW VOLATILITY ENDS AMID BELLIGERENT RHETORIC

Growing concerns about the risk of conflict on the Korean Peninsula and some disappointing corporate earnings reports sent the major U.S. equity benchmarks lower for the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average’s streak of nine record-setting high closes ended Tuesday as rhetoric between the U.S. and North Korea escalated, with President Donald Trump saying that North Korean aggression would be met by “fire and fury.” More substantial losses followed on Thursday—for the day, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite lost 2.13%, the broader S&P 500 Index declined 1.45%, and the blue chip Dow was off nearly 1%.

Thursday’s sell-off ended a period of record-low volatility during which the S&P 500 Index had gone 15 days without moving more than 0.30%. Equities recovered somewhat on Friday. Despite the down week, U.S. large-cap stocks and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite still have substantial year-to-date gains, while small- and mid-cap shares are holding on to smaller gains.

DISNEY, RETAILERS STRUGGLE AFTER WEAK EARNINGS REPORTS

In stock-specific news, Walt Disney traded down after reporting weak second-quarter results that included declines in the number of its cable network subscribers (primarily from ESPN) and decreasing advertising revenue. Disney’s announcement that it intends to focus on distributing its own content to consumers weighed on Netflix shares. Several major retailers also lost ground after disappointing earnings reports, including Macy’s, which declined more than 10% on Thursday.

BONDS: DEMAND STRONG FOR TREASURIES, MUNIS

Investor demand for safe-haven securities pushed the yield of the 10-year U.S. Treasury note down to about 2.20% by Friday, its lowest level since June. (Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.) U.S. tax-free municipal bonds also recorded solid gains, supported by healthy demand, oversubscribed new issues, and limited offerings in the secondary market. However, technical conditions were unfavorable for the investment-grade corporate bond sector. There was heavy new issuance activity in the first part of the week, and demand from investors in Asia was not as strong as it has been—which is not unusual when volatility spikes. Credit spreads—the additional yield that investors demand for holding a bond with credit risk—widened throughout the week. Geopolitical tensions, new supply, and some disappointing earnings reports contributed to weakness in the high yield bond market.  

INFLATION REMAINS LOW

According to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the consumer price index rose 0.1% in July, less than consensus expectations. Over the past 12 months, prices have increased 1.7%, which is less than the Federal Reserve’s 2% inflation target. T. Rowe Price Chief U.S. Economist Alan Levenson observed that motor vehicle prices continued to fall, as dealers work through new car inventories and deal with a glut of used cars coming from rental car companies, among other factors. Besides vehicles, core goods (which exclude the food and energy sectors) posted a small increase, likely showing some impact from recent dollar weakness, said Levenson.

In separate reports, job openings reached a record high in June, while new jobless claims remained near historic lows, although they ticked up from the previous week.

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