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Friday, December 08, 2017

Stocks Extend Recent Gains

Charles Schwab: On the Market
Posted: 12/8/2017 4:15 PM EST

Stocks Extend Recent Gains
U.S. stocks advanced during the regular trading session to extend recent gains and finish the week mostly higher. The advance for equities was aided by a relatively upbeat read on the domestic labor market which followed favorable economic reports out of China and Japan. Treasury yields were mixed and the U.S. dollar was higher, while gold was little changed and crude oil prices rallied. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) increased 119 points (0.5%) to 24,329, the S&P 500 Index was 15 points (0.6%) higher at 2,651, and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 27 points (0.4%) to 6,840. In moderate volume, 740 million shares were traded on the NYSE and 1.8 billion shares changed hands on the Nasdaq. WTI crude oil increased $0.67 to $57.36 per barrel and wholesale gasoline gained $0.02 to $1.72 per gallon. Elsewhere, the Bloomberg gold spot price moved $0.71 higher to $1,247.93 per ounce, and the Dollar Index—a comparison of the U.S. dollar to six major world currencies—was 0.1% higher at 93.90. Markets were mixed for the week, as the DJIA and the S&P 500 Index increased 0.4% and the Nasdaq Composite declined 0.1%.

United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL $64) increased its Q4 passenger revenue outlook after reporting a 5.1% increase in November traffic, and it announced a new $3 billion share repurchase program. Shares traded higher.

Western Digital Corp. (WDC $81) is gained solid ground amid media reports that the company and Toshiba Corp. (TOSYY $16) have reached a deal in principle to settle their chip dispute and could announce a formal agreement next week. Neither company commented on the report.

Cooper Companies Inc. (COO $227) reported fiscal Q4 earnings-per-share (EPS) of $1.78, or $2.65 ex-items, versus the $2.64 FactSet estimate, with revenues rising 8.0% year-over-year (y/y) to $562 million, above the projected $559 million. The medical device company issued 2018 EPS guidance that had a midpoint below expectations. Shares finished solidly lower.

November labor report shows job growth tops forecasts, consumer sentiment slips

Nonfarm payrolls (chart) rose by 228,000 jobs month-over-month (m/m) in November, compared to the Bloomberg forecast of a 195,000 increase. The rise of 261,000 seen in October was revised to a gain of 244,000 jobs. The total upward revision to the job gains in October and September was 3,000.

Excluding government hiring and firing, private sector payrolls increased by 221,000, versus the forecasted gain of 195,000, after rising by 247,000 in October, revised from the 252,000 increase that was initially reported. The Department of Labor said employment continued to trend up in professional and business services, manufacturing and healthcare.

The unemployment rate remained at 4.1%, matching estimates, while average hourly earnings were up 0.2% m/m, below projections of a 0.3% increase and versus October's downwardly revised 0.1% decrease. Y/Y, wage gains were 2.5% higher, versus estimates of a 2.7% increase and October's downwardly revised 2.3% rise. Finally, average weekly hours ticked higher to 34.5 from October's unrevised 34.4 rate, where it was forecasted to remain.

Rate hike expectations for when the Fed concludes its meeting next week remained elevated following the relatively favorable employment report but the softer-than-expected wage growth and downward revision to the prior month may have caused some uncertainty regarding the pace of rate hikes in 2018. As we head toward the New Year, Schwab's Director of Market and Sector Analysis, Brad Sorensen, CFA, offers a look at the key issues to watch in his latest, Schwab Sector Views: 18 Thoughts Heading into '18, pointing out that business optimism is elevated, which could bolster already rising capital investments. This could help support a continuation of the strong labor market.
Schwab's Chief Investment Strategist Liz Ann Sonders points out that capital spending (capex) is likely to be an economic highlight in 2018 and coupled with the continued rebound in productivity is good news for wages in her articles, Takin Care of Business: Several Important Kickers for a Strong Capex Cycle and One Thing Leads to Another: Productivity's Rebound.

The preliminary University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index (chart) declined to 96.8 in December, from 98.5 in November, and compared to expectations of an improvement to 99.0. The current economic conditions component of the survey improved but was more than offset by a decline in the expectations part of the report. The 1-year inflation forecast rose to 2.8% from November's 2.5% rate, while the 5-10 year inflation outlook ticked higher to 2.5% from the prior month's level of 2.4%.

Wholesale inventories (chart) were revised lower to a 0.5% m/m decline for October from the preliminary estimate of a 0.4% decrease, where it was forecasted to remain and compared to September's 0.1% gain. Sales grew 0.7% m/m, compared to forecasts of a 0.3% increase and September's upwardly revised 1.4% rise. The inventory-to-sales ratio—the amount of time it would take to deplete inventories at the current sales pace—dipped to a 1.25 months pace from September's 1.26 rate.

Treasuries finished mixed, with the yield on the 2-year note dipping 1 basis point (bp) to 1.79%, the yield on the 10-year note remaining at 2.37%, and the 30-year bond rate increasing 1 bp to 2.76%.

The U.S. dollar is extended its weekly gain and Treasury yields are diverged on the heels of the employment data, which followed favorable Chinese trade and Japanese GDP figures. Moreover, the markets cheered a breakthrough in the U.K. Brexit impasse, and a short-term government funding bill late yesterday that should help avoid a U.S. government shutdown this weekend. However, tax reform continues to be a main focus for the markets as the House and Senate grapple with reconciling key differences in their bills.

Schwab's Director of Tax and Financial Planning, Hayden Adams, CPA, offers analysis of the reconciliation process and what investors should be paying attention to, in his article, Tax Reform: What Investors Should Know.

If you have questions regarding how the potential tax overhaul may affect you as an investor, see Hayden's Tax Reform: Frequently Asked Questions.

Europe and Asia higher

European equity markets moved higher, with the markets cheering upbeat economic reports out of the U.S., China and Japan, which overshadowed an unexpected drop in German exports and mixed industrial and manufacturing production figures in the region. Financials led the way, bolstered by a long-awaited deal by regulators to complete the final batch of post-crisis capital rules, which offered clarity for the industry. The U.K. and European Union (EU) reached a deal on three key issues, including the Irish border, that paves the way to break the Brexit negotiation deadlock and likely leads to talks moving to the next phase ahead of next week's EU summit. However, the next stage would revolve around trade and headlines suggested this could be a lengthy process in getting an agreement, which appeared to weigh on the British pound versus the U.S. dollar. The Brexit breakthrough joined the agreement in the U.S. on a short-term government spending bill that likely avoids a near-term shutdown, though the markets continued to eye the U.S. tax reform reconciliation process.

Schwab's Chief Global Investment Strategist Jeffrey Kleintop, CFA, and Vice President of Trading and Derivatives Randy Frederick point out in the video, Political Risk: How Should Investors Respond?, that a long history of these developments shows us that holding a well-diversified portfolio may buffer the short-term market moves that are often the result. So, investors should avoid overreacting to the political and geopolitical drama and stick to their long-term financial plans. The euro dipped versus the greenback and bond yields in the region finished mixed.

Stocks in Asia finished higher as the U.S. markets rose to break a string of sluggishness, while economic reports in the region fostered some optimism. Japan's Q3 GDP was revised to a 2.5% quarter-over-quarter annualized pace of growth, from the preliminary estimate of a 1.4% rise, and versus expectations of an adjustment to a 1.5% rate of expansion. China's November exports and imports rose much more than expected resulting in an unexpected widening of the nation's trade surplus. The yen lost ground for a second day amid some rejuvenated global economic optimism, helping lift Japanese share prices. Stocks trading in mainland China and Hong Kong advanced, while securities trading in Australia and India also gained ground and South Korean equities ticked to the upside. The markets rebounded after a recent stumble and Schwab's Jeffrey Kleintop, CFA, and Randy Frederick, discuss in the video, It's All Relative: Why Stocks May Not Be Overvalued.

Stocks nudge higher on week as tech rebounds and tax reform moves closer

U.S. stocks finished the week modestly higher with economic data continuing to paint a positive global backdrop, while the weekend passage of the Senate's tax reform bill fostered optimism that the most sweeping overhaul effort in decades was moving closer to President Donald Trump's desk. Moreover, the tech sector rollover that had pressured the markets as of late, reversed to the upside as the week matured to help nudge the markets into positive territory and the Nasdaq mostly recover early losses. Energy stocks lagged behind as crude oil prices moved to the downside. The U.S. dollar moved noticeably higher and Treasury yields ticked to the upside in choppy trading with political uncertainty in Europe also garnering attention.

Next week, fiscal policy focus will share the spotlight with monetary policy as the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is highly expected to conclude its Wednesday meeting with a 25 bps increase to its target fed funds rate to 1.50% (economic calendar). However, the accompanying updated FOMC projections and Chairwoman Janet Yellen's final press conference shortly after the decision will likely garner the most attention as the markets try to gauge the pace of rate hikes in 2018. The decision will also be joined by releases next week including: JOLTS Job Openings report, the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the Producer Price Index (PPI), retail sales, Markit's business activity reports, and industrial production and capacity utilization.

As noted in the latest Schwab Market Perspective: The Big Picture Heading into 2018, a better-than-expected 2017 appears to be morphing into a solid start to 2018, but it is unlikely to be as smooth a ride. We believe the bull market still has room to run but it could shape up to be a bumpier ride as expectations and sentiment are elevated. U.S. economic growth appears to be picking up, but with the Federal Reserve tightening policy and inflation likely to heat up, we appear to be in the latter stages of the cycle. Global markets are also poised to have an unprecedented year of performance; which is unlikely to be repeated, but conditions around the world still look largely supportive of further gains.

International reports due out next week to look out for include: Australia—employment change. China—CPI and PPI, lending statistics, retail sales, and industrial production. India—CPI, industrial production, and trade balance. Japan—machine orders, industrial production and capacity utilization, and the Q4 Tankan Large Manufacturing Index. Eurozone—European Central Bank monetary policy decision, industrial production, Markit's business activity reports, and the trade balance, along with German investor sentiment and CPI. U.K.—the Bank of England monetary policy decision, CPI, employment change, and retail sales.

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