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Dashboard update summary:
Much of the past week’s macroeconomic news offered disappointment, yet markets dismissed the weak data as a result of what seems like lowered expectations. Retail sales, business inventories, and industrial production reports showed weakness in March (though labor market continues to look good). Corporate earnings have been quite soft in the first quarter, and GDP figures are likely to reflect the first quarter slowdown in output. Investors, however, seem relatively more risk-on, despite the weak macroeconomic data. Their expectations about earnings have fallen low enough to not only absorb the recent results, but to react positively in some cases. These investors are also faced with fewer high-earning alternatives, given sluggish and slowing growth abroad.
CPI and PPI data show little change, while oil prices continue to rebound. Currency markets are quite active, especially on the emerging markets side, where the dollar is weaker, partially as a result of the commodity price rebound.
Macro and Labor Market Indicators
Industrial production and total capacity utilization both fell in March. The industrial production index was down 0.6 points, largely stemming from decreases in production in mining and utilities market groups. This was magnified in the total percentage of capacity utilized figure, which fell to its lowest level since 2010. Mining capacity grew 1.6 percent year over year, despite a simultaneous 12.9 percent fall in production.
The inventories to sales ratio ticked up in February, as a result of a fall in sales of 1.4 percent and an increase of inventories by 1.2 percent over their February 2015 levels. The most recent week’s data on new jobless claims showed the fewest new claims since 1973.
Equities and Fixed Income
Despite the weak data from the corporate side, equity markets were up and corporate bond yields down during the week. The Nasdaq and Dow were up 1.8 percent on the week, while the S&P 500 climbed 1.6 percent. Yields on U.S. Treasury bonds at all maturities, and U.S. corporate bonds at all maturities and credit ratings, have fallen over the past month, pushing prices higher.
Prices and Currency Markets
This week brought the release of March PPI and CPI data. Both were largely unchanged, as the PPI for all commodities increased slightly and the CPI fell slightly, over their February year over year percentage change levels. There was a surprise in CPI apparel prices, which fell 0.6 percent over their March 2015 levels, despite an increase in February. The data continue to reflect the very low prices of energy and moderate prices increase in healthcare and housing.
Currency markets were busy during the past week. The dollar strengthened against the Euro (0.91 percent), Yen (0.81 percent), and Swiss Franc (1.06 percent), while, as pointed out by FT’s hard currency, the dollar weakened further against the four R’s, the ruble, real, ringgit, and rand. These four currencies have seen a dramatic change in direction over the past month, appreciating against the dollar by more than 3.5 percent each and more than 5 percent in the case of the rand.
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