While the last week’s headlines revolved around hurricane Harvey and North Korea, stock markets and data quietly closed out August on a high note. Both U.S. and international markets posted modest gains in August, moving year-to-date returns higher in double digit territory. Here in the U.S. the second quarter earnings season is coming to a close, with companies reporting earnings growth of 11.2% over last year and 75% of companies beating expectations (according to Zacks Research).
Also during the week, several economic data points were released measuring GDP, employment and manufacturing activity. Results were mixed but generally better than expected. GDP growth during the second quarter was revised up to a rate of 3.0%, ADP announced private employers added 237,000 jobs in August (which was at odds with the bls.gov employment report showing a change in private payrolls of only 165,000), and the ISM indicating the manufacturing sector is growing at a faster pace with an index reading of 58.8.
The chart below also shows the Citi Economic Surprise Index over the last twelve months. The index measures expectations versus actual data released. A positive reading means that data releases have been stronger than expected while a negative reading means data have been worse than expected. The index is still reading negative but showing marked improvement since the June lows.
Stock markets are setting record highs and the economy continues to grow, yet investment risks always remain. Moving into autumn, markets will likely focus on key issues like the U.S. debt ceiling debate, activity on the Korean peninsula, and if the Huskers will win their first national championship in over two decades.
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