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They bat, but they will never hit a single, double, triple or home run. They are also near a ball that is never thrown. What are they?
Last month’s riddle:
Last month’s answer:
The impasse in Washington delayed or postponed some regularly scheduled economic reports. We did learn that the jobless rate had ticked down to 7.2% in September, even with only 148,000 new jobs created (economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast a gain of 180,000). Consumer inflation rose 0.2% in September after ticking up 0.1% in August, while wholesale inflation decreased 0.1% in September after a 0.3% August advance. Retail sales retreated 0.1% in September, but were up 0.4% with auto buying factored out. Industrial output increased 0.6% in September, and durable goods orders rose 3.7%.4,5,6
Many uninsured consumers faced an impasse as they tried to use healthcare.gov, the federal government’s new website created to help people shop for health coverage in 36 states. The site was plagued by back-end design and security issues, leading some of its critics to call for the immediate resignation of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Additionally, some insured Americans discovered they would have to buy new coverage in 2014 due to the inability of their current health insurance to meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act.7,8
In more positive news, the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index rose to 56.4 in October, marking the fifth straight month of expansion. The last ISM report on the service sector (September) also showed expansion at 54.4, although this was a real drop from August’s reading of 58.6.9,10
As expected, the Federal Reserve refrained from tapering its $85-billion-per-month asset purchase program. Noting that “fiscal policy is restraining economic growth,” the Federal Open Market Committee’s October 30 statement also conceded that “the recovery in the housing sector slowed somewhat in recent months.” Social Security announced a 1.5% COLA for 2014, one of the program’s smallest COLAs ever; that works out to an additional $19 a month for the average recipient.11,12
Great Britain’s Markit PMI slipped 0.3 points to a still-impressive 56.0 in October. The combined Markit PMI for the eurozone slipped from 52.2 in September to 51.5 last month, but that reading still marked the fourth consecutive time it was above 50. Eurozone unemployment was at 12.0%, but Markit noted 15 eurozone members reporting “modest growth of activity for the third month running, representing the first period of growth for these countries since early 2011.” Spain had actually emerged from its 2-year recession in Q3, and its jobless rate fell in Q3 as well.13,15
Performances were all over the place. While copper lost 0.63% and gold 0.34%, silver futures advanced 1.59% and platinum futures 2.98%. NYMEX crude fell 5.91% on the month and unleaded gasoline retreated 0.51%, but natural gas rose 0.39%. Among the major crop futures, sugar (+4.12%) and cocoa (+1.29%) were the gainers. Soybeans lost only 0.04%, but deeper October losses were in store for wheat (1.69%), corn (3.00%), coffee (7.59%) and cotton (11.50%). The U.S. Dollar Index lost 0.02 points on the month to wrap up October at 80.20.17,18
Mortgage rates fell, with one exception. Comparing Freddie Mac’s October 31 and September 26 Primary Mortgage Market Surveys, we see the following decreases: 30-year FRMs, 4.32% to 4.10%; 15-year FRMs, 3.37% to 3.20%; 5/1-year ARMs, 3.07% to 2.96%. Interest rates on 1-year ARMs rose 0.01% in October to 2.64%.20
Indices are unmanaged, do not incur fees or expenses, and cannot be invested into directly.
These returns do not include dividends.
Now we come into what is traditionally a sweet spot for the stock market – the fall. As the federal shutdown altered some of the data collection and research processes that normally go into the economic reports out of Washington, the market may take the upcoming editions of those reports with a few grains of salt. Private-sector reports may carry more weight this month and next. There is a sense of normalcy, as the market has again been concentrating on earnings – and normalcy is good for a mature bull market. The next big test for stocks will come in mid-December – will the new congressional supercommittee meet its deadline to craft a multi-year deficit reduction plan for the federal budget? If it doesn’t, we may have a replay of the October impasse on Capitol Hill – and a sense of déjà vu on Wall Street.
UPCOMING ECONOMIC RELEASES: As you will notice, the data stream is a bit off-kilter for November. Just ahead, we have August and September factory orders (11/4), the October ISM service sector PMI (11/5), September’s Conference Board leading indicators (11/6), the October Challenger job-cut report and the federal government’s delayed first estimate of Q3 GDP (11/7), the Labor Department’s October jobs report, the University of Michigan’s initial November consumer sentiment index and Commerce Department figures on September consumer spending (11/8), September wholesale inventories and October industrial production (11/15), the November NAHB housing market index (11/18), September business inventories, October’s CPI, retail sales and existing home sales and the October 30 FOMC minutes (11/20), the October PPI (11/21), October pending home sales, September and October housing starts and building permits, the September Case-Shiller and FHFA housing price indices, the second estimate of Q3 GDP and the Conference Board’s November consumer confidence survey (11/26), October consumer spending and durable goods orders and the final November University of Michigan consumer sentiment index (11/27). Thanksgiving falls on November 28, and due to the long weekend accompanying the holiday, there will be no further major economic releases until December. When will the Census Bureau put out some new home sales data? A combined September/October report is scheduled to appear December 4.
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1 - chicagotribune.com/news/chi-government-shutdown-20131016,0,1118789.story [10/17/13]
2 - online.wsj.com/mdc/public/page/2_3024-m_globalstockindexes.html [10/31/13]
3 - swampland.time.com/2013/10/17/heres-what-the-government-shutdown-cost-the-economy/ [10/17/13]
4 - briefing.com/investor/calendars/economic/2013/10/28-01 [11/1/13]
5 - tinyurl.com/lqwsp7p [10/25/13]
6 - stream.wsj.com/story/latest-headlines/SS-2-63399/SS-2-360718/ [10/22/13]
7 - arkansasonline.com/news/2013/oct/30/sebelius-apologizes-health-law-rollout-problems/ [10/30/13]
8 - arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/10/healthcare-gov-deferred-final-security-check-could-leak-personal-data/ [10/30/13]
9 - ism.ws/ismreport/mfgrob.cfm [11/1/13]
10 - ism.ws/ISMReport/NonMfgROB.cfm [10/3/13]
11 - bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-30/fed-keeps-85-billion-qe-pace-awaiting-signs-economy-picks-up.html [10/30/13]
12 - money.cnn.com/2013/10/30/news/economy/social-security-benefits/ [10/30/13]
13 - bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-01/manufacturing-strengthens-from-china-to-south-korea-economy.html/ [11/1/13]
14 - tinyurl.com/qf55s9c [11/2/13]
15 - nytimes.com/2013/10/25/business/international/europes-economy-shows-modest-signs-of-life.html [10/25/13]
16 - mscibarra.com/products/indices/international_equity_indices/gimi/stdindex/performance.html [10/31/13]
17 - money.cnn.com/data/commodities/ [10/31/13]
18 - online.wsj.com/mdc/public/npage/2_3050.html?mod=mdc_curr_dtabnk&symb=DXY [10/31/13]
19 - latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-existing-home-sales-20131021,0,6791691.story#axzz2jcIkT3V1 [10/21/13]
20 - freddiemac.com/pmms/ [11/3/13]
21 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=DJIA&closeDate=10%2F31%2F12&x=0&y=0 [11/3/13]
21 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=10%2F31%2F12&x=0&y=0 [11/3/13]
21 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=SPX&closeDate=10%2F31%2F12&x=0&y=0 [11/3/13]
21 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=DJIA&closeDate=10%2F31%2F03&x=0&y=0 [11/3/13]
21 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=10%2F31%2F03&x=0&y=0 [11/3/13]
21 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=SPX&closeDate=10%2F31%2F03&x=0&y=0 [11/3/13]
22 - treasury.gov/resource-center/data-chart-center/interest-rates/Pages/TextView.aspx?data=realyieldAll [11/3/13]