Interest Rates Are Up Again—So What?

April 24, 2018

Normally, I don’t spend my time watching the markets move. But this morning, I did have one chart open: the interest rate on the U.S. Treasury 10-year. In the past couple of days, the rate has risen. The question is, will it actually get to 3 percent? If so, what will that mean?

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Monday Update: Retail Sales Rebound

April 23, 2018

Last week’s reports gave us a look at pretty much the entire economy, including consumer spending, the housing market, and industrial production and manufacturing. In the week ahead, we’ll see data on consumer confidence, durable goods, and gross domestic product growth.

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A Look at Confidence—the Final Indicator of Economic Risk

April 20, 2018

Today’s post will conclude this week’s discussion on the major economic risk indicators I follow. After looking at interest rates and jobs, we will close with a discussion of confidence, both consumer and business.

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A Look at Employment—the Next Best Indicator of Economic Risk

April 19, 2018

As a follow-up to yesterday’s look at the yield curve, today we will review employment, another indicator that does a good job of signaling economic risk. The reason employment works as an indicator is simple: More than 70 percent of the economy is made up of consumer spending, and the vast majority of that spending comes from wage income—which is to say, from jobs. No jobs? No spending. No spending? No economy. It really is that simple.

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A Look at the Yield Curve—the Best Indicator of Economic Risk

April 18, 2018

One of the key indicators I look at when evaluating economic and market risks is the yield curve, which is a fancy name for how interest rates for different time periods vary. You would expect the rate an investor needs for a 10-year loan, for example, to be different from what she needs for a 3-month—or 30-year—loan. And, by and large, that is the case. Exactly how different the rates are, however, can change quite a bit, and those changes can tell us a lot about the economy.

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What Higher Market Volatility Means for Your Portfolio

April 17, 2018

One of the big themes so far this year has been the return of volatility to the stock market. After a very calm 2017, markets have gotten much more turbulent in 2018. One way to quantify this is to look at daily movements. In 2018 (through April 9), the S&P 500 had an intraday swing of 2 percent or more on 13 days. The day-to-day price movements, measured at the close, have been more than ±2 percent on eight days. Neither of those happened in 2017, at all. There clearly has been an increase in volatility, and in a big way.

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Monday Update: Inflation on the Rise

April 16, 2018

Last week, the news was largely about inflation, with producer and consumer prices leading the way. The week ahead will be a busy one for economic news. Reports will give us a look at consumer spending, the housing market, and industrial production and manufacturing. In other words, we’ll get an update on the entire economy.

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