Markets Stutter…

January
27

Written by: Jon McGraw

Was last week a stutter step or have markets lost their balance?

Anybody who knows football can tell you a lot goes into every play. Strategy, practice, game review, and preparation all affect outcomes, as do decisions and execution during games. Many, many factors influence gains and losses on the field. Similarly, numerous issues affect the performance of stock and bond markets – a fact that became abundantly clear when pundits tried to explain last week’s market downturn. Here are a few of the things which may have helped put investors on the defensive last week:

  • Fears of a China bubble: According to Barron’s, a dip in the nation’s manufacturing index stirred experts’ fears China may be experiencing a credit bubble that is creating property and infrastructure bubbles. If this proves true and the bubble bursts, the repercussions may be felt throughout global markets.
  • Concern about Federal Reserve tapering: The Fed has begun to pursue a less stimulative monetary policy and that has some worried about growth, especially in emerging countries which rely on foreign currency to finance their deficits, according to The Washington Post.
  • Anxiety about emerging markets resilience: Giving weight to concerns about the impact of changing Federal Reserve policy, currencies in Argentina, Venezuela, South Africa, and Turkey lost value late last week. The New York Times said rising interest rates may increase borrowing costs triggering painful readjustment periods in some emerging markets.
  • Unease over unemployment: Reuters suggested stronger economic growth in the United States, Japan, and Europe could camouflage issues related to youth unemployment and skills shortages.
  • Lack of enthusiasm over mixed earnings: Fourth quarter earnings reports have been roughly in line with the mixed results reported throughout 2013. Sixty-three percent of companies’ earnings beat analysts’ expectations, 12 percent were in line, and 25 percent came in lower than expected.

So, is this a correction? Or, has the bull market concluded its run? You may as well ask whether the Broncos or the Seahawks will win on Sunday. Nobody knows for sure.

 


Data as of 1/24/14

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks)

-2.6%

-3.1%

19.8%

11.5%

16.4%

4.5%

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.7

NA

1.8

3.4

2.6

4.1

Gold (per ounce)

1.4

5.5

-24.2

-1.9

6.8

12.0

DJ-UBS Commodity Index

1.5

1.0

-10.0

-7.6

2.1

-1.0

DJ Equity All REIT TR Index

-0.7

2.0

0.0

9.9

21.0

8.5

 

HOW DO YOU DEFINE ‘BIG DATA?’

There is little agreement about the definition of ‘Big Data.’ Broadly speaking, it is a term that describes the storage and analysis of large and/or complex data sets. According to the MIT Technology Review, “There is unanimous agreement that big data is revolutionizing commerce in the 21st century. When it comes to business, big data offers unprecedented insight, improved decision-making, and untapped sources of profit.” In other words, data – collected through rewards cards, social media websites, industry research, and other sources – is helping companies better understand their businesses and their customers.

Big data is helping companies in diverse industries. The International Business Times reported retailers, supermarkets, and pharmaceutical companies are collecting thousands of gigabytes of consumer data in real time and through online data mining in order to improve sales and marketing efforts. An article on Gizmag.com said:

“Pattern recognition software applied to patient records, clinical trials, medical reports, and journals makes it possible for computers to be used as diagnostic tools, comparing data to arrive at the best possible treatment plan… Fraud detection, pre-trial research in legal cases, stock trading, and patient monitoring are now handled by software after the arrival of big data.”

The Big Data revolution also is likely to change the employment picture in the United States, according to a report titled, The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerization? The report covered a study which was released by Oxford University last September and evaluated about 700 different types of occupations in the United States. It found about 47 percent of jobs in the United States are at risk of being computerized within the next two decades.

Occupations at low risk of being computerized included therapists of different types, social workers, curators, anthropologists, and others. Those at high risk included telemarketers, loan officers, payroll clerks, legal secretaries, and (ironically) data entry technicians.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.”  –Elvis Presley, “The King of Rock and Roll”