U.S. equities finished out the week mixed in a choppy session, as a morning relief rally succumbed to the recent persistent uncertainty. Early gains came as political concerns seemed to have eased somewhat, with President Trump’s top economic advisor Gary Cohn suggesting he will not leave his post. However, the highly-anticipated speeches from Fed Chair Janet Yellen and ECB President Mario Draghi didn’t offer anything new to remedy swirling anxiety surrounding global monetary policy. The U.S. dollar fell following Yellen’s and Draghi’s remarks, but bounced off the lows of the day, and Treasury yields ticked lower, while gold was higher and crude oil prices were mixed.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) rose 30 points (0.1%) to 21,814, the S&P 500 Index added 4 points (0.2%) to 2,443, and the Nasdaq Composite shed 6 points (0.1%) to 6,266. In light-to-moderate volume, 663 million shares were traded on the NYSE and 1.4 billion shares changed hands on the Nasdaq. WTI crude oil rose $0.44 to $47.87 per barrel and wholesale gasoline lost $0.01 at $1.62 per gallon. Elsewhere, the Bloomberg gold spot price gained $4.42 to $1,290.82 per ounce, and the Dollar Index—a comparison of the U.S. dollar to six major world currencies—was 0.3% lower at 92.50. Markets were higher for the week, as the DJIA increased 0.6%, the S&P 500 Index rose 0.7% and the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.8%.

July preliminary durable goods orders fell 6.8% month-over-month (m/m), compared to the Bloomberg estimate of a 6.0% drop, and June’s 6.4% jump was unrevised. Ex-transportation, orders were 0.5% higher m/m, compared to forecasts of a 0.4% gain and versus June’s unrevised 0.1% rise. Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, considered a proxy for business spending, grew 0.4%, in line with projections, and following the unrevised flat reading posted in the month prior.

The headline figure was driven by the volatile component of transportation equipment as nondefense aircraft and parts orders fell nearly 71% m/m, more than offsetting a 48% rise in defense aircraft and parts, and following the prior month’s 129% surge. Demand for computers and related products, along with electrical equipment, appliances and components led the rise in core durable goods orders, partially offset by declines in orders for communications and machinery goods. Treasuries were mostly higher, as the yield on the 2-year note was little changed at 1.33%, while the yield on the 10-year note decreased 3 basis points (bps) to 2.17% and the 30-year bond rate declined 2 bps to 2.75%.

Treasury yields came under pressure in the wake of Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s speech at the Fed’s symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Amid the backdrop of festering global monetary policy uncertainty on signs of steady economic growth but low inflation, Yellen offered little in terms of economic and monetary policy commentary, focusing on financial regulation. She pointed out progress in putting in place a regulatory and supervisory structure to lower risks to financial stability and achieving a stronger financial system. Yellen added that any changes to post-crisis financial reforms should be “modest.” She did note that “substantial progress has been made” toward the Fed’s economic objectives of maximum employment and price stability. The markets were looking for any clues to the possibility of another rate hike this year and if the Central Bank will begin the process of shrinking its behemoth $4.5 trillion balance sheet next month as most are expecting.

Similar to Yellen, European Central Bank President (ECB) Mario Draghi steered clear from commenting on future monetary policy in his afternoon speech at the Fed symposium, instead focusing on trade and tax regulations. The euro jumped following Draghi’s remarks, adding pressure to the U.S dollar, as the lack of commentary toward future policy only added to the recent uncertainty.

U.S. stocks rebounded from back-to-back weekly declines in typical late-August subdued volume. Earnings season wrapped up with mixed results from the consumer discretionary and staples sectors, but Q2 remained on track to post profit growth breaching 9.0% and revenue expansion topping 5.0%.

Schwab Center for Financial Research – Market Analysis Group

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