There was little news and little action the past week, with all broad equity indices slightly down as markets came off record highs the week before. Q3 earnings season still sits at 67% of earnings beats for US companies. The VIX (measure of equity volatility) has calmed down to the range of it’s year-to-date lows, closing at 12.34. The other traditional measure of uncertainty, gold, finished at $1,464/ounce on Friday, down from its $1,546 high in September. This is all in spite the geo-political concerns over Brexit and trade wars, and economic concerns of slowing global growth.
Both sides in the US-China trade war appear content to crawl toward a deal. A partial deal, dubbed Phase One, was supposed to be signed this month, but so far has failed realization. Xi called for an agreement based on mutual respect and equality. However, Trump said he will not agree to an “equal” deal because the US has suffered unfair trade treatment, giving China “$500 billion a year” for several years. This has been a frequent complaint consistent with the public list of negotiating points (forced technology transfers, intellectual property theft, foreign ownership/licensing restrictions, etc.) and supported by US Trade Representative findings. US trade negotiators have been invited to Beijing although a date is yet to be set. The next important date is December 15 when tariff rates will be raised to 15% on ~$150 billion of Chinese goods.
The Fed’s minutes reiterated the committee’s current policy outlook of neutral until a material reassessment of outlook. Core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) is the Fed’s preferred measure, which was 1.8% for the past year ending in August. Despite an unemployment rate of 3.6%, a rate not seen since 1969, the Fed remains concerned of missing its 2% inflation target. The Fed already cut rates 3 times this year – dubbed an “insurance” cut to get ahead of large negative movements that could occur from growing risks. Market participants expect little to no further moves through 2020.
Housing starts show a housing market set to pick up, continuing strength from last quarter. Home sales were also strong. The Philadelphia business outlook survey has met consensus estimates 4 of the past 5 months. Consumer sentiment also beat November estimates.
This week will feature releases on new home sales, consumer confidence, GDP, and a speech from Fed chair Powell.
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