The major equity indexes ended Wednesday’s trading on a lower note as the Street grappled with a threat from President Donald Trump to shut down the government if Congress fails to fund a Mexico border wall.
Stocks managed to briefly pare losses after comments by House Speaker Paul Ryan calling a government shutdown was unlikely. Yet that was not enough to calm nerves as the deadline to approve spending measures draws near and a fight looms over raising the cap on government borrowing.
Congress will have about 12 working days when it returns from its summer recess on Sept. 5 to raise the debt ceiling before the Treasury exhausts the last of its options to remain current on all of the federal government’s obligations.
Credit ratings agency Fitch Ratings said a failure to raise the ceiling in a timely manner would prompt it to review its rating on U.S. sovereign debt, “with potentially negative implications.”
Trump’s comments also affected the bond and currency markets, with the dollar index slipping 0.4 to 93.14 and 10-Year Treasury yields falling a touch below 2.17 percent on safety buying.
Investors have grown increasingly concerned about Trump’s ability to legislate his pro-growth agenda given the near-constant political turbulence in the White House.
The CBOE Volatility index closed up 6.0 points to 12.03, its first rise in four days.
Next up is a speech by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen at a meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday, which will be scrutinized for possible clues on the Fed’s monetary policy.
Also weighing on sentiment was data showing sales of new single-family homes fell unexpectedly during July, to a seven-month low.
The consumer discretionary index ended down 0.8 percent, dragged lower by a 3.71-percent decline in Lowe’s after the company issued disappointing results and forecast. Home Depot fell 0.54 percent to $149.10 in sympathy.
Shares of advertising firm Omnicom were down more than 6.94 percent to $72.71, while Interpublic Group fell 6.32 percent to $72.71 after WPP cut its sales forecast. WPP’S shares fell11.49 percent.
Approximately 5.04 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, a number that was below the 6.2 billion share daily average over the past 20 trading sessions.
New Home Sales Seven Month Low
The Commerce Department reported on Wednesday that new single-family home sales unexpectedly fell in July, dropping to their lowest level in seven months. So the question is whether the housing market is beginning to face an ongoing slowdown.
According to the Department, sales fell 9.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 571,000 units last month, the lowest level since December 2016. The percentage drop was the largest since August 2016, whereas the consensus had been for a 0.3 percent gain.
June’s sales pace was revised up to 630,000 units from the previously reported 610,000 units. Home sales in May also were not as weak as previously reported, taking some of the sting from July’s report.
New home sales, which account for 9.4 percent of overall housing sales, are volatile month-to-month and are drawn from building permits. Still, sales declined 8.9 percent on a year-on-year basis.
Earlier this month there was also a decline in housing starts and permits during July. The unexpected decline in new home sales suggests the housing market could be cooling.
A separate report from the Mortgage Bankers Association on Wednesday showed applications for loans to buy a house also decreased last week.
The housing market is being hampered by a shortage of properties, which is driving up home prices. The new housing market has not capitalized on the acute shortage because of supply constraints facing builders, including labor, land and finance.
Housing weighed on the economy in the second quarter, subtracting nearly three-tenths of a percentage point from gross domestic product. Current forecasts show a modest rebound in housing activity during the third quarter.
The housing market remains underpinned by a strong labor market, which is near full employment. Last month, 70 percent of the new single-family homes sold were either yet to be built or under construction in July. New home sales fell in the Northeast, South and West. They rose in the Midwest.
The inventory of new homes on the market rose 1.5 percent to 276,000 units last month, the highest level since June 2009. Still, new housing stock is less than half of what it was at its zenith during the housing bubble.
At July’s sales pace, it would take 5.8 months to clear the supply of houses on the market, up from 5.2 months in June. A six-month supply is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand. The median price of a new home increased 6.3 percent in July from a year ago to $313,700.
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