The major domestic equity indexes ended Monday’s trading session with little to show for the day’s activity as gains for Amazon countered losses in shares of energy stocks. At the same time, there was some satisfying economic news indicating that sales of new single-family homes unexpectedly rose in October to a 10-year high.
Prospects for corporate tax cuts are being watched carefully in hopes that a seasonal gift in that direction would fuel a continuation of the record-setting run in the equities market. Meanwhile, President Trump summoned Senate Republican tax-writers to the White House to urge passage of a sweeping tax bill as Republicans rushed to bring the bill to a Senate vote, possibly as soon as Thursday.
The Street was also monitoring Tuesday’s hearing at the Senate Banking Committee to confirm the nomination of Jerome Powell to succeed Janet Yellen at the helm of the Federal Reserve.
Amazon rose 0.8 percent as consumers sought Cyber Monday online promotions following the Black Friday start to the holiday shopping season. Amazon led the S&P 500 retailing index up 0.6 percent.
Shares of Gap rose 1.2 percent and Victoria’s Secret owner L Brands was up 4.1 percent.
Energy was the worst-performing sector, falling 1.0 percent. Domestic crude eased from two-year highs on prospects of higher supply and uncertainty about Russia’s resolve to join in extending output cuts ahead of this week’s OPEC meeting. Chevron and Exxon ended the trading day down 0.8 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.
Micron Technology saw its share price fall 3.3 percent and Nvidia ended the day down 1.3 percent, with the Philadelphia semiconductor index off 1.3 percent.
The declines followed a 5-percent drop in shares of Samsung Electronics in Asian trading after Morgan Stanley downgraded the stock, citing concerns that a boom in memory chips is likely to peak soon.
Western Digital suffered a 6.7 percent decline in its share price after a downgrade.
Time rose 9.5 percent after Meredith, a media company, said it would acquire the magazine publisher. Meredith shares ended the day up 10.7 percent.
Barracuda Networks rose 16.5 percent after the data security company agreed to be acquired by Thoma Bravo LL a private equity firm C, .
Approximately 5.7 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, a number that was below the 6.4 billion share daily average over the last 20 trading sessions.
New Homes Sales At 10-Year High
New single-family home sales increased unexpectedly during October, reaching their highest point in 10 years in response to robust demand across the country.
According to a report released by the Commerce Department on Monday morning, new sales increased 6.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 685,000 units last month. It was the highest level since October 2007. September’s sales were revised downward to 645,000 units from the previously reported 667,000 units.
New home sales, which account for 11 percent of overall home sales, were up 18.7 percent on a year-on-year basis during October. They have now increased for three straight months.
That together with last month’s increase in homebuilding and sales of previously owned homes suggests the housing market could be regaining momentum after treading water for much of the year. Housing has been constrained by shortages of homes for sale, skilled labor and suitable building land.
Home sales were temporarily restrained by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Housing has been a drag on economic growth since the second quarter. There are concerns that an overhaul of the tax code could undermine the housing market.
Republicans in the House of Representatives have proposed allowing interest payment deductions on mortgage debt subject to a cap of $500,000, and only on a primary residence. The Senate wants to keep the existing limit at $1 million but eliminate the deduction of interest on home-equity loans
Last month, new single-family homes sales rose 30.2 percent in the Northeast, reaching their highest level since October 2007. Sales in the South increased 1.3 percent also to a 10-year high. There were also strong gains in sales in the West and Midwest last month. More than two-thirds of the new homes sold last month were either under construction or yet to be started.
Despite the rise in sales in October, the inventory of new homes on the market increased 1.4 percent to 282,000 units, the highest level since May 2009.
At October’s brisk sales pace it would take 4.9 months to clear the supply of houses on the market, the fewest since July 2016 and down from 5.2 months in September. A six-month supply is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand.
Crude Prices Fall
Oil prices fell 1 percent on Monday, with domestic crude easing from two-year highs on prospects of higher supply, and uncertainty about Russia’s resolve to join in extending output cuts ahead of this week’s OPEC meeting.
Domestic crude fell 80 cents or 1.3 percent to $58.15 a barrel. Brent crude fell 10 cents or 0.2 percent to $63.76 a barrel.
Oil prices have surged in recent months due to output cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers. However, higher prices have encouraged greater output among domestic producers.
OPEC and its allies cut production by 1.8 million bpd in January and have agreed to hold down output until March. OPEC meets on Thursday to discuss policy and a possible deal to extend the cuts.
On Friday, Russia said it was ready to support extending an output cut deal. Still, Russia has not given a timeline, and on Monday there were signs Russia may find it hard to comply. Oil output from Russia’s Sakhalin-1 project is set to rise by about a quarter to 250,000-260,000 barrels per day (bpd) from January.
Oil markets will rebalance after June 2018 at the earliest, an OPEC working panel concluded last week, OPEC sources said on Monday, signaling the need to extend existing production cuts well into next year.
Domestic crude oil production is up 15 percent since mid-2016 to 9.66 million barrels per day (bpd), not far from top producers Russia and Saudi Arabia. Rising drilling activity means output should grow further, domestic energy firms, encouraged by rising crude prices, added oil rigs last week. The monthly rig count rose for the first time since July.
On Friday, domestic crude touched $59.05 a barrel, its highest level since mid-2015, buoyed after an oil spill forced closure of the 590,000 bpd Keystone pipeline connecting Canada’s oil sand fields with the United States.
Analysts expect OPEC to keep output limits for another six or nine months. However, it is likely that prices will continue to decline after the OPEC meeting.