|This is the "Navigator Weekly Commentary" for the week ending May 24, 2013. The full Navigator Newsletter is available through a password protected login on our web site.
As of 1:15 pm today, the domestic stock markets are showing some resiliency ahead of the three-day Memorial Holiday weekend, coming off of the worst levels of the day, aided by a stronger-than-expected U.S. durable goods report. However, stocks continue to be hamstrung by uncertainty regarding when the Federal Reserve may scale back its asset purchases. Treasuries are modestly higher in a shortened session, despite the upbeat durable goods data.
Durable goods orders rose by a more than expected 3.3% month-over-month in April, above the 1.5% increase forecast by economists surveyed by Bloomberg, though March's 5.7% drop was revised to a 5.9% decline. Ex-transportation, orders exceeded expectations, rising by 1.3% in April, the first gain in three months and above the 0.5% increase forecasted, and March's figure was also downwardly revised to a 1.7% decline from an initial 1.4% decrease. Also, orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, considered a proxy for business spending, came in north of forecasts, gaining 1.2% month-over-month in April, compared to the 0.5% increase was projected, after an upwardly revised 0.9% in March, versus the initially reported 0.2% gain.
Existing-home sales, reflecting closings instead of contract signings, rose 0.6% month-over-month in April to an annual rate of 4.97 million units, compared to the 4.99 million unit Bloomberg forecast. March's figure was revised to a 4.94 million unit pace, from the originally-reported 4.92 million unit rate. Sales are 9.7% above the same period a year ago-the 22-straight monthly gain-while the median existing-home price of $192,800 is 11.0% above a year ago, the 14-consecutive monthly year-over-year increase. The supply of homes available for sale rose 11.9% month-over-month to 2.16 million units, equating to a 5.2 months of supply rate at the current sales pace, and is 13.6% below year ago levels.
New home sales rose 2.3% month-over-month in April to an annual rate of 454,000 units, above the 425,000 rate expected, and after March's figure was upwardly revised to a 444,000 annual rate. The median home price rose 8.3% month-over-month to $271,600, and is 14.9% higher year-over-year. The inventory of new homes of 156,000 topped the 151,000 level registered in March, representing an unchanged 4.1 months of supply at the current sales rate. New home sales are considered a timely indicator of conditions in the housing market as they are based on contract signings instead of closings. The upbeat sales were led by a 3.0% month-over-month rise in the South and a 10.8% increase in the West, more than offsetting a 16.7% decline in the Northeast and a 4.8% decrease in the Midwest.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke issued his testimony on Wednesday in front of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. The Fed Chief acknowledged the drawbacks of persistently low rates but warned that a premature tightening of monetary policy could carry a substantial risk of slowing or ending the economic recovery and causing inflation to fall further. He pointed out that although the job market has improved, it remains weak overall. However, during the Q&A session, Bernanke responded that a possible scaling back of asset purchases could come in the next few meetings. Adding to the tapering tone, the minutes from the last Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting showed some participants may be willing to slow down asset purchases as early as the next meeting scheduled for June 18-19. The report showed, "A number of participants expressed willingness to adjust the flow of purchases downward as early as the June meeting if the economic information received by that time showed evidence of sufficiently strong and sustained growth; however, views differed about what evidence would be necessary and the likelihood of that outcome." The U.S. dollar reversed to the upside and finished higher, while Treasuries fell after Bernanke's comments and the Fed minutes.
U.S. Treasuries are modestly higher despite the data, with the yield on the 2-year note nearly unchanged at 0.24%, while the yield on the 10-year note is decreasing 1 basis point to 2.01%, and the 30-year bond rate is declining 2 basis points to 3.17%.
The Navigator Team has made no changes to our Fidelity, Vanguard or Schwab oriented model portfolios.
Thank you for being a loyal Navigator reader, and enjoy your weekend.