Rudd’s MarketView Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Summary

The Nasdaq posted its largest one-day drop in more than three months on Wednesday as high-flying technology stocks felt the brunt of a sector shift into financials and other pockets of the market that could benefit from less regulation, lower taxes and rising interest rates.

Gains in financial, industrial and healthcare stocks helped the Dow Jones Industrial Average, giving the blue-chip index another record closing high, while the benchmark S&P 500 index finish nearly unchanged. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 index’s tech sector, which has propelled the market’s record-setting rally this year, shed 2.6 percent for its largest daily decline in over five months.

Shares of Amazon.com, Apple, Google parent Alphabet and Facebook closed out the trading day down about two to four percent. Among the year’s other high fliers, Netflix fell 5.5 percent and the Philadelphia semiconductor index was down 4.4 percent.

The financial sector index rose 1.8 percent, adding to Tuesday’s gains and resulting in its largest two-day rise since just after the recent presidential election. JP Morgan rose 2.3 percent and Wells Fargo gained 2.0 percent.

The industrial sector index added 0.9 percent, led by transportation stocks, such as Southwest, Union Pacific and United Parcel Service (UPS).

Although Amazon ended the day in negative territory, shares of other retailers posted sharp gains, including Target up 8.9 percent, and Macy’s up 8.2 percent, as holiday shopping season has begun in earnest over the past week.

Investors are keenly focused on tax-reform legislation in Congress, with hopes that a corporate tax cut would further fuel the record-setting rally in equities.

Congressional Republicans scrambled to reformulate their bill to satisfy lawmakers worried about how much it would expand the federal deficit, as the measure moved toward a Senate floor vote later this week.

In the latest batch of encouraging economic data, the economy grew faster than initially thought in the third quarter, chalking up its swiftest pace of expansion in three years.

Outgoing Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told congressional leaders the U.S. economy has gathered steam this year and will warrant continued interest rate increases amid a strengthened global recovery

It was Yellen’s final scheduled testimony on Capitol Hill. Her nominated replacement, Jerome Powell, on Tuesday had defended plans to potentially lighten regulation of the financial sector.

In corporate news, Chipotle rose 5.6 percent after the restaurant chain said it was seeking a turnaround expert to lead the company.

Approximately 8 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, a number that was well above the daily average of roughly 6.5 billion shares over the past 20 trading sessions.

GDP Exceeds Expectations

The economy grew faster than initially thought in the third quarter, chalking up its fastest rate of growth in three years, as rising inventory and equipment levels offset a moderation in consumer spending.

According to a report by the Commerce Department on Wednesday morning, gross domestic product expanded at a 3.3 percent annual rate in the third quarter, assisted by a rebound in government spending. That was the fastest rate of growth since the third quarter of 2014 and a pickup from the second quarter’s 3.1 percent rate.

The economy was previously reported to have grown at a 3.0 percent pace in the July-September period. It was the first time since 2014 that the economy experienced growth of 3 percent or more for two straight quarters.

However, the growth pace needs to be tempered a bit as inventories, which are goods yet to be sold, contributed 0.8 percentage point to third-quarter GDP growth, up from the previously reported 0.73 percentage point.

Excluding inventory investment, the economy grew at a 2.5 percent rate. When measured from the income side, output also expanded at a 2.5 percent rate. The Commerce Department said after-tax corporate profits surged at a 5.8 percent rate last quarter after rising at only a 0.1 percent pace in the second quarter.

The brisk growth rate strengthens the case for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates next month.

The economic recovery since the 2007-2009 recession is now in its eighth year and showing little signs of fatigue. The economy is being powered by a tightening labor market, which has largely maintained a strong performance that started during former President Barack Obama’s first term.

You are likely to see only moderate growth resulting from efforts by President Trump as his fellow Republicans in Congress try to push through a broad package of tax cuts, including slashing the corporate income tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent.

Businesses accumulated inventories at a $39.0 billion pace in the third quarter, instead of the previously reported $35.8 billion rate. That suggests inventories could be a drag on growth in the fourth quarter.

Data on Tuesday indicated a decline in wholesale and retail inventories in October, implying lower fourth-quarter GDP growth estimates.

Growth in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy, was revised down to a 2.3 percent rate in the third quarter from the previously reported 2.4 percent pace. Consumer spending increased at a robust 3.3 percent rate in the second quarter.

The deceleration in consumer spending likely reflects the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which struck Texas and Florida during the quarter. Spending also is being constrained by sluggish wage growth, which is forcing households to dip into their savings to fund purchases.

The saving rate was lowered to 3.3 percent in the third quarter from the previously reported 3.4 percent. Growth in business investment in equipment was raised to a 10.4 percent pace, the fastest growth pace in three years, from the previously reported 8.6 percent rate. Business spending has been buoyed by expectations of hefty corporate tax cuts.

Investment in nonresidential structures fell at a 6.8 percent pace in the third quarter, the biggest drop since the fourth quarter of 2015, instead of the previously estimated 5.2 percent rate. That is largely because of a slowdown in spending on oil and gas well drilling.

Growth in government spending was raised to a 0.4 percent rate. Government outlays were previously reported to have declined at a 0.1 percent pace in the third quarter. Government spending had contracted for two consecutive quarters.

Pending Home Sales Rise

After three months of weaker volume, homebuyers returned to the market in October, especially in the South. The pending home sales index, which measures signed contracts to buy existing homes, rose 3.5 percent for the month, but is still 0.6 percent lower than October 2016. That is the highest level since June, but September’s reading was revised down.

The index, from the National Association of Realtors, is a forward-looking indicator for closed sales one to two months out.

Sales were strongest in the South, jumping 7.4 percent for the month and 2 percent compared with a year ago. That was likely the result of two major hurricanes at the end of the summer. Realtors in Houston are surprised at the speed with which the market bounced back following the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey.

Sales were higher in the Northeast by 0.5 percent monthly, and in the Midwest by 2.8 percent. In the West, where prices are highest, and inventory is slim, homes experienced a monthly decline of 0.7 percent. All three regions were lower compared with October 2016.

“Home shoppers had better luck finding a home to buy in October, but slim pickings and consistently fast price gains continue to frustrate and prevent too many would-be buyers from reaching the market,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors.

Yun is now predicting total home sales for 2017 will come in at 5.52 million, up just 1.3 percent compared with 2016. He blames the weakness entirely on a lack of listings.

“Existing inventory has decreased every month on an annual basis for 29 consecutive months, and the number of homes for sale at the end of October was the lowest for the month since 1999,” said Yun.

“Until new home construction climbs even higher and more investors and homeowners put their home on the market, sales will continue to severely trail underlying demand.”

While sales of existing homes have been weak for much of this year, sales of newly built homes have been surging in the past few months. The latest reading for October, which also measures signed contracts, had new home sales up nearly 19 percent compared with a year ago, according to the U.S. Census.

Builders are benefiting from the shortage of existing homes for sale, but homebuyers are not. Home price gains are accelerating again, and affordability is weakening, especially at the low end of the market, where demand is strongest.