Economic Outlook

Quote of the week. "Chance favors only the prepared mind." — Louis Pasteur

A JUMP IN HOUSING STARTS. In a relatively light week of economic data, one of the notable items was a 1.7% rise in new home construction in July. Economists had expected only a 0.2% increase in that category. However, the Commerce Department said most of the gain came in multi-family housing. In contrast, single-family housing starts were down 4.2% for the month, with building permits down 3.1%.1

GM WILL GO PUBLIC. General Motors has announced it will reenter the stock market. Last Wednesday, it filed an IPO registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission. One of the largest IPOs in history may come as soon as October, including common and preferred shares. This signals the end of "Government Motors": the Treasury Department will now have the opportunity to reduce its 61% stake in the company. GM earned $1.3 billion in 2Q 2010 - its second straight quarter in the black. 2,3

LEADING INDICATORS TURN POSITIVE AGAIN. After a 0.3% slip in June and a 0.5% drop in May, the Conference Board's Leading Economic Index eked out a 0.1% increase for July. The LEI has been more or less flat since March, yet components within the index have signified a mild economic expansion across that time.4

PPI RISES FOR FIRST TIME SINCE MARCH. July's 0.2% increase in the Producer Price Index was in line with analysts' forecasts. Core PPI (wholesale inflation minus food and energy prices) rose 0.3% in July, more than the 0.1% advance expected.1

OIL FUTURES SINK; GOLD FUTURES RISE. In fact, gold prices rose $12.30 last week. That 1.01% weekly advance led to gold settling at $1,227.20 per ounce Friday on the COMEX. Over the last three weeks, gold prices have climbed 3.85%. Oil prices slipped $1.93 last week. At Friday's close on the NYMEX, crude for September delivery was at $73.46 a barrel.5

LIGHT VOLUME, LOW ENTHUSIASM. August options were expiring last week, and initial jobless claims weren't shrinking. Combine that with some bearish sentiment and you had a week of light trading marked by significant selloffs. The NASDAQ advanced 0.04% last week to close Friday at 2,179.76. The DJIA lost a bit of ground to settle at 10,213.62 Friday, while the S&P 500 ended the week at 1,071.69.6