Market Update: May 15, 2017


  • Overnight in Asia most indexes were up fractionally while Japan pulled back slightly. G-7 discussions focused on protectionist threats, which weighed on sentiment. North Korea also fired a new missile over the weekend, adding to tensions on the peninsula.
  • WTI crude oil prices are up ~3.0%, to $49.25/barrel, after energy ministers from Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed that extension to oil production cuts for an additional nine months, through March 2018, is needed.
  • European markets were mixed on either side of flat. Investors were positive on Christian Democrats state victory supporting Merkel’s hold on power, while oil move was also welcomed.
  • U.S. markets are moving higher, boosted by news on potential oil production cuts. Meanwhile, concerns over cyberattacks and Trump/Comey drama may dampen enthusiasm as trading progresses.


Key Insights

  • The economy remains on track for Q2 gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 2.0% to 2.5% despite mixed inflation readings and retail sales below forecast.
  • The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose +0.2% month over month and up from the drop of -0.3% in March, however both year over year CPI (+2.2%) and year over year core CPI (+1.9%) were below expectations, triggering the rally in safe havens last Friday.
  • Retail sales (+0.4%) were also below expectations, but up from the prior month. When considering the improvement in consumer sentiment, it is important to remember that this data point (retail sales) and the performance of retail stocks, should not be viewed as an indictment of the U.S. consumer. Rather than a changing consumer, it is a change in consumer buying habits, which is combining to alter not only retail sales figures, but also pricing measures. Consumers are spending: 1) more online, 2) on experiences over goods, and 3) comparison shopping using mobile technology. Consequently, it is very difficult for the department store model to continue charging premium, retail prices.
  • Considering the unemployment rate of 4.4%, wage growth of +2.5% year over year, riding confidence and delayed tax refunds, the near-term (Q2) and longer-term (2017) GDP trajectory appears favorable. Clarity on tax reform could take these numbers even higher.

Macro Notes

  • Excellent earnings season but bar will soon be raised. First quarter earnings season has been excellent by almost any measure. Results beat expectations by more than usual, the overall growth rate is very strong, and guidance has provided above-average support for analysts’ estimates for the balance of 2017. But at the risk of raining on the earnings parade, we would note that comparisons will get tougher as we anniversary the earnings recession trough of 2016, while the risk that the corporate tax reform timetable gets pushed into 2018 has increased. Market participants generally expect fiscal policy to begin to provide an earnings boost by year end, an expectation that has become increasingly tenuous.



  • Chinese industrial production growth weaker than expected. Chinese industrial production growth came in at 6.5% vs. expectations of 7% and down from period month of 7.6%. On an absolute basis, the economy is still on track to meet its growth goals, though it looks like growth may have peaked for the year at the end of the first quarter. The government continues to crack down on excess leverage in the financial system; today’s numbers are unlikely to move them off that path.
  • Japan domestic demand, and prices, rise in April. We normally think of Japan as an export oriented economy, but domestic demand increased over 4% on a year-over-year basis, with the impact felt most strongly in demand for raw materials. Producer prices rose modestly last month against declining expectations and are running at 2.1% annually.
  • Bank of Japan. Just like the Federal Reserve (Fed) and the European Central Bank (ECB), the Bank of Japan (BOJ) is under some public pressure to outline how it intends to unwind both its zero-interest rate policy and the massive expansion of its balance sheet to 93% of the country’s GDP. Recent statements from BOJ Governor Kuroda suggests such policy announcements may be coming. The more good news that comes out of the Japanese economy, the more pressure the BOJ is under.
  • Win streak snapped, but lack of volatility remains. The S&P 500 snapped its 3-week win streak last week, with a modest 0.3% drop. One thing continued though and that was the incredibly small daily ranges and lack of overall volatility. On the week, the S&P 500 traded in less than a one-percent range (from high to low) for the second consecutive week ( only the third time since 1995). Additionally, the intraday range on Friday was 0.22% – the smallest daily range on a full day of trading in nearly three years.
  • Checking in on small caps. The lack of volatility isn’t just in the blue chips, as the Russell 2000 has traded in a range of only 6.8% over the past 20 weeks. That is the tightest 20-week range since at least 1990. After a big jump in the fourth-quarter, small caps have lagged large caps this year, as they continue to consolidate the late 2016 gains.



  • Italy: GDP (Q1)
  • UK: CPI & PPI (Apr)
  • Eurozone: GDP (Q1)


  • Russia: GDP (Q1)
  • Japan: GDP (Q1)


  • LEI (Apr)
  • ECB: Draghi






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