China’s Wild Ride Continues and U.S. Home Prices Fall

July
27

Written by: Jon McGraw

There was a spate of bad news last week, and it drove U.S. markets lower.

China’s wild ride isn’t over yet. The Purchasing Managers’ Index, a private measure of Chinese manufacturing, came in below expectations at 48.2, according to Bloomberg Business. Results below 50 indicate the sector is contracting. That doesn’t bode well for growth in China—which is the biggest global consumer of metals, grains and energy—or the rest of the world.

Things weren’t rosy in the United States either. Sales of new homes in June came in below expectations, and the median new home price fell from a year ago. That news was a U-turn from recent data indicating strength in the housing market.

Earnings news was also less than stellar. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is kind of pricey, according to Reuters, and second quarter earnings for companies in the index were mixed. Seventy-four percent of companies beat earnings expectations, but not nearly as many delivered on expected revenues.

Earnings weren’t the only issue on investors’ minds. Last week, the Federal Reserve signaled that a September rate hike was a possibility. This week it inadvertently released a confidential staff forecast that included estimates for inflation, unemployment, economic growth and the fed funds rate. The Washington Post reported:

“Currently, the fed funds rate is between 0 and 0.25 percent, the same level it has been since the financial crisis hit in 2008 … The staff prediction is that the prevailing fed funds rate during the fourth quarter will be 0.35 percent. Though there is no reference to exactly when or how that could happen, analysts say the most likely way is for the central bank to raise its target rate in September.”

Experts cited by Barron’s cautioned, “… it’s not the first rate hike that’s important. It is what comes after that.” Stay tuned.

Data as of 7/24/15 1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks) -2.2% 1.0% 4.6% 15.8% 13.3% 5.4%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. -2.0 1.9 -8.4 8.3 3.5 2.8
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 2.3 NA 2.5 1.4 3.0 4.3
Gold (per ounce) -4.6 -9.9 -16.4 -12.0 -1.8 9.8
Bloomberg Commodity Index -4.4 -10.6 -27.7 -13.1 -6.4 -5.0
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index -0.5 -1.9 5.8 10.4 12.7 6.9

A High School Degree

Companies often take an interest in education. Some involve themselves in community outreach efforts, sending employees to teach financial literacy or educate students about careers that demand knowledge of a particular field of study. Others have foundations that provide financial support to school districts.

Recently, a new model of assistance was introduced. Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-Tech) is the brainchild of New York City, City University of New York and a large technology company. The schools offer a six-year educational program that combines public high school, community college courses and paid work experience. Students graduate with an associate’s degree, and it doesn’t cost them a penny of tuition.

The first six students graduated from P-Tech—two years early—in June 2015. All received job offers from the technology company. Three accepted and three decided to go on to college. The Economist described one graduate, who opted for employment:

“He applies his programming and technical skills to a digital platform that provides market research to his colleagues. It is a good job: he makes $50,000 a year, has a health-care package, and a pension plan. Mr. Saddler is 18 years old. He earned his high-school diploma last month. A few weeks before finishing school, he also received an associate degree in computer systems technology.”

Experts cited by U.S. News & World Report explained early college high schools help bridge the gap for students from low-income families who sometimes struggle with the transition from high school to college or university.

Since about 30 percent of the companies in the United States cannot fill open positions, P-Tech is an idea that’s gaining traction. More than 70 small and large companies are collaborating with high schools and colleges to promote the concept. Twenty-seven schools have been introduced in New York, Connecticut and Illinois, to date. Colorado is expected to be the next state to follow suit.

Weekly Fun—Think About It

“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.”

—Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States