The major domestic equity indexes retrenched somewhat on Monday, weighed down by a drop in the shares of Merck and a report that Congress is discussing a gradual phase-in of the much-anticipated corporate tax cuts. Market watchers pointed to declines steepening after a Bloomberg report that the House of Representatives was discussing a gradual cut in corporate tax rates over several years.
Investors were also digesting the impact to Trump’s agenda from news that his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was charged with money laundering in the federal probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Stocks pared losses late in the day amid signs that Trump was close to picking Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell as the new Fed Chairman. The New York Times reported Trump was “expected to” name Powell as soon as Thursday to replace Janet Yellen as Fed chair, after Reuters reported earlier that Trump was likely to pick him.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq touched an intraday record high earlier in the session before pulling back. The S&P tech sector rose 0.4 percent, following big gains on Friday in the wake of a strong batch of earnings.
Apple gained 2.3 percent after analysts pointed to strong demand for the iPhone X.
Merck shares fell 6.1 percent after a setback to its key cancer medicine. The stock was among the top drags on the S&P 500 and Dow industrials.
In other corporate news, the board of Japan’s SoftBank is having doubts about the merger it has been negotiating between its subsidiary Sprint and T-Mobile, due to fears of losing control of a combined entity, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. Sprint fell 9.3 percent and T-Mobile closed down 5.4 percent.
Market watchers readied for another big week of corporate results. With more than half the S&P 500 reported, third-quarter earnings are expected to have climbed 6.7 percent, up from an expectation of 5.9-percent growth at the start of October, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The Fed is also due to meet this week, adding to the heavy week of economic and financial news.
The October jobs report is due on Friday.
Approximately 6.6 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, a number that was above the 6 billion share daily average over the last 20 sessions.
Consumer Spending Chalks Up Record Increase
Consumer spending recorded its largest increase in more than eight years during the month of September, as households in Texas and Florida replaced flood-damaged motor vehicles, but underlying inflation remained muted.
Households, however, dipped into their savings to fund purchases last month, pushing savings to their lowest level since 2008. Against the backdrop of lackluster wage growth, the decline in savings suggests that September’s robust pace of consumer spending is probably unsustainable.
The Commerce Department indicated on Monday, that consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of GDP, rose 1.0 percent last month after an unrevised 0.1 percent gain in August. The increase, which also included an increase in higher household spending on utilities, was the largest since August 2009.
The data was included in last Friday’s third-quarter gross domestic product report, which showed consumer spending growth slowing to a 2.4 percent annualized rate after a robust 3.3 percent pace in the second quarter.
The moderation in consumption was offset by a rise in inventory investment, business spending on equipment and a decline in imports, which left the economy growing at a 3.0 percent rate in the third quarter after the April-June period’s brisk 3.1 percent pace.
The Commerce Department said the September data reflected the effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but said it could not quantify the total impact of the storms on consumer spending and personal income.
Consumer spending in September was buoyed by purchases of motor vehicles, probably as drivers in Texas and Florida replaced automobiles that were destroyed when Harvey and Irma slammed the states in late August and early September.
Spending on long-lasting goods rose 3.2 percent last month. Outlays on services rose 0.5 percent.
Though disruptions to the supply chain related to the hurricanes likely contributed to an uptick in inflation last month, underlying price pressures remained benign.
The Fed’s preferred inflation measure, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index excluding food and energy, edged up 0.1 percent in September. The so-called core PCE has now increased by 0.1 percent for five straight months.
The core PCE increased 1.3 percent in the 12 months through September after a similar gain in August. The core PCE has undershot the Fed’s 2 percent target for nearly 5-1/2 years. The soft core PCE readings are likely to intensify the inflation debate among Fed officials.
It is possible that the low inflation readings are the result of transitory factors like one-off reductions in the costs of mobile phone services, and expect price pressure to rise as the labor market tightens. On the other hand, concern over the factors behind tame inflation could prove more persistent.
The Fed is unlikely to raise interest rates this week, but is expected to do so in December.
When adjusted for inflation, consumer spending increased 0.6 percent in September after slipping 0.1 percent in August. While that put consumer spending on a higher growth trajectory heading into the fourth quarter, the pace is unlikely to be maintained.
Personal income rose 0.4 percent last month after increasing 0.2 percent in August. Income at the disposal of households after inflation was flat after slipping 0.1 percent in August.
With spending outpacing income, savings fell to $441.9 billion in September, the lowest level since August 2008, from $521.4 billion in the prior month. The saving rate dropped five-tenths of a percentage point to 3.1 percent, the lowest level since December 2007.