• Manufacturers in Texas Saw Growth in Factory Activity Slow in January

    Every month, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas asks Texas business executives questions on labor market conditions and the results are compiled into the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey, the Texas Service Sector Outlook Survey and the Texas Retail Outlook Survey.

    On January 30th, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reported that: “Growth in Texas factory activity slowed in January, according to business executives responding to the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey. The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, fell from 9.1 to 0.2, with the near-zero reading suggestive of flat output.

    Other measures generally indicated weakened manufacturing activity this month. The new orders index was negative for an eighth month in a row – suggesting a continued decrease in demand – though it moved up from -11.0 to -4.0. The growth rate of orders index inched down to -12.3. The capacity utilization index was positive but dipped from 7.9 to 6.0, while the shipments index returned to negative territory at a reading of -6.3.

    Perceptions of broader business conditions continued to worsen in January, though pessimism waned. The general business activity index remained negative but shot up 12 points to -8.4. Similarly, the company outlook index posted its 11th straight negative reading but moved up 11 points to -2.5. The outlook uncertainty index was largely unchanged at 16.8.

    Labor Market & Price Pressures

    Labor market measures pointed to stronger employment growth and longer workweeks.

    • The employment index climbed four points to 17.6, a reading significantly above its series average of 7.9.
    • Thirty-one percent of firms noted net hiring, while 13 percent noted net layoffs.
    • The hours worked index held fairly steady at 3.8.

    Further, price pressures were generally steady and wage growth eased slightly in January.

    • The raw materials prices index was largely stable at 20.5, remaining below its series average of 28.0 for the third month in a row.
    • The finished goods prices index was little changed at 9.9, roughly in line with its series average of 9.0.
    • The wages and benefits index ticked down from 34.2 to 30.5.

    Expectations regarding future manufacturing activity were mixed in January. The future production index pushed further positive to 16.1, signaling that respondents expect output growth over the next six months. The future general business activity index remained negative, coming in at -9.1. Most other measures of future manufacturing activity were positive this month.”

    Sources: dallasfed.org

  • Conference Board Leading & Coincident Economic Indicators Pointing to a Recession

    The Conference Board was founded in 1916 by a group of CEOs “concerned about the impact of workplace issues on business, and with a desire for greater cooperation and knowledge sharing among businesses.”

    Every month, the Conference Board compiles a composite of economic indexes designed to signal peaks and troughs in the business cycle. The leading, coincident, and lagging economic indexes are essentially composite averages of 10 individual indicators and help smooth out some of the volatility of individual components.

    The ten components include:

    • Average weekly hours, manufacturing
    • Average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance
    • Manufacturers’ new orders, consumer goods and materials
    • ISM Index of New Orders
    • Manufacturers’ new orders, nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft orders
    • Building permits, new private housing units
    • Stock prices, 500 common stocks
    • Leading Credit Index
    • Interest rate spread, 10-year Treasury bonds less federal funds
    • Average consumer expectations for business conditions

    Leading Indicators Signaling a Recession

    On January 23rd, the Conference Board announced that its Leading Economic Index for the U.S. decreased by 1.0% in December 2022 to 110.5 (2016=100), following a decline of 1.1% in November.

    The LEI is now down 4.2% over the six-month period between June and December 2022 – a much steeper rate of decline than its 1.9% contraction over the previous six-month period (December 2021–June 2022).

    “The US LEI fell sharply again in December – continuing to signal recession for the US economy in the near term. There was widespread weakness among leading indicators in December, indicating deteriorating conditions for labor markets, manufacturing, housing construction, and financial markets in the months ahead.

    Meanwhile, the coincident economic index (CEI) has not weakened in the same fashion as the LEI because labor market related indicators (employment and personal income) remain robust. Nonetheless, industrial production – also a component of the CEI – fell for the third straight month.

    Overall economic activity is likely to turn negative in the coming quarters before picking up again in the final quarter of 2023.”

    The trajectory of the US LEI continues to signal a recession 

    Sources: conference-board.org

  • Small Business Optimism Drops Amidst Continued Inflation Challenges

    The National Federation of Independent Business was founded in 1943 and is the largest small business association in the U.S. The NFIB collects data from small and independent businesses and publishes their Small Business Economic Trends data on the second Tuesday of each month. The Index is a composite of 10 components based on expectations for: employment, capital outlays, inventories, the economy, sales, inventory, job openings, credit, growth and earnings.

    Here is what the Small Business Economic Trends data released on January 10th reported:

    The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index declined 2.1 points in December to 89.8, marking the 12th consecutive month below the 49-year average of 98. Owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months worsened by eight points from November to a net negative 51%. Inflation remains the single most important business problem with 32% of owners reporting it as their top problem in operating their business.

    “Overall, small business owners are not optimistic about 2023 as sales and business conditions are expected to deteriorate. Owners are managing several economic uncertainties and persistent inflation and they continue to make business and operational changes to compensate.”

    Key findings include:

    • Forty-one percent of owners reported job openings that were hard to fill, down three points from November but historically very high.
    • The net percent of owners raising average selling prices decreased eight points to a net 43% (seasonally adjusted), historically high.
    • The net percent of owners who expect real sales to be higher worsened two points from November to a net negative 10%.

    More Small Business Woes

    As reported in the NFIB’s monthly jobs report:

    • Owners’ plans to add positions remain elevated, with a seasonally adjusted net 17% planning to create new jobs in the next three months.
    • Overall, 55% of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in December.
    • Ninety-three percent of those hiring or trying to hire reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill.

    Further:

    • A net 44% of owners reported raising compensation.
    • A net 27% plan to raise compensation in the next three months, down one point from November.
    • 8% of owners cited labor costs as their top business problem.
    • 23% said that labor quality was their top business problem.

    More Data Later This Week

    More economic data will be released later this week, including MBA Mortgage Applications on Wednesday; Jobless Claims and CPI data on Thursday; and Consumer Sentiment on Friday.

    Sources: nfib.com

  • Mortgage Applications Drop as Mortgage Rates Increase

    Mortgage Applications Drop as Mortgage Rates Increase

    On Wednesday, the Mortgage Bankers Association announced that mortgage applications decreased 13.2%  from two weeks earlier (and include adjustments to account for the holidays). 

    • The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 13.2% on a seasonally adjusted basis from two weeks earlier. 
    • On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 39.4% compared with the two weeks ago.
    • The holiday adjusted Refinance Index decreased 16.3% from the two weeks ago and was 87% lower than the same week one year ago.
    • The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 12.2% from two weeks earlier.
    • The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 38.5% compared with the two weeks ago and was 42% lower than the same week one year ago.

    “The end of the year is typically a slower time for the housing market, and with mortgage rates still well above 6% and the threat of a recession looming, mortgage applications continued to decline over the past two weeks to the lowest level since 1996. Purchase applications have been impacted by slowing home sales in both the new and existing segments of the market. Even as home-price growth slows in many parts of the country, elevated mortgage rates continue to put a strain on affordability and are keeping prospective home buyers out of the market.”

    • The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 30.3% of total applications from 28.8% the previous week.
    • The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 7.3% of total applications.
    • The FHA share of total applications increased to 14.0% from 13.1% the week prior.
    • The VA share of total applications increased to 13.4% from 12.0% the week prior.
    • The USDA share of total applications remained unchanged at 0.6%.

    MBA Mortgage Applications Over the Past Year

    Increases to Mortgage Rates

    • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($647,200 or less) increased to 6.58% from 6.42%, with points increasing to 0.73 from 0.65 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week. 
    • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $647,200 ) remained at 6.12%, with points increasing to 0.45 from 0.37 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week. 
    • The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 6.06% from 5.97%, with points increasing to 0.70 from 0.57 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

    Sources: mba.org

  • S&P 500 Sector Performance for November 2022

    As volatility declined,
    all 11 S&P 500 sectors advanced for the month

    Over every single time period, sector performance will be driven largely by factors one would expect, such as the overall state of the economy, underlying corporate earnings, current and predicted interest rates, and inflation, among other factors.

    Reviewing the sector performance for the month of November (a very short time-period), two things become very clear:

    • First, sectors do not move in lock-step with one another and will often provide very divergent returns for investors – depending on timing and the current economic climate and
    • Second, November continued to see very real divergence in sector performance, with the spread between the best (+10%) and the worst (+0.11%) being unusually wide.

    Sector Highlights Through November 2022

    For the month of November, sector performance was excellent, as all 11 sectors advanced healthily. For the month of October, sector performance was very good, as 9 of the 11 sectors were up for the month, with 7 up more than 5%.

    It is also interesting to see the difference 11 months can make, as investors were reeling in January when 10 of the 11 sectors were red (with only Energy gaining that month); March saw 10 of the 11 positive; April and May saw a mixed bag; June was all negative; July was overwhelmingly positive; August was mostly negative, September was all negative; October was almost all positive; and November was all positive. That’s volatility.

    Here are the sector returns for the month of November and October (two very short time-periods):

    S&P 500 SectorOct. 2022Nov. 2022
    Information Technology+5.66%+4.42%
    Energy+23.71%+1.25%
    Health Care+8.05%+4.58%
    Real Estate+2.92%+6.52%
    Consumer Staples+6.89%+5.54%
    Consumer Discretionary-1.64%+0.11%
    Industrials+12.37%+7.20%
    Financials+10.57%+6.06%
    Materials+8.58%+10.51%
    Communication Services-1.75%+5.05%
    Utilities+0.00%+5.51%

    Source: FMR

    What Does It Mean for Investors?

    At a very basic level, the differences in returns for the 11 S&P 500 sectors support two fundamental principles of financial planning – asset allocation and diversification.

    At your next portfolio review, let’s revisit the differences between asset allocation and diversification. And we can discuss how to ensure that your portfolio is consistent with your risk profile and personal goals.