Shortened Holiday Week Doesn’t Make for Quiet One


Written by: Jon McGraw

It was a short week, but it wasn’t quiet.

Oil prices moved higher, according to The Wall Street Journal, after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported crude-oil inventories fell unexpectedly last year. Analysts had predicted oil supplies would rise.

One expert cited by The Wall Street Journal suggested that the stockpile decline and subsequent oil price rally owed much to Gulf Coast refiners reducing inventories “to mitigate state ad valorem taxes on year-end crude stocks.” If that’s the case, the oil price increase may not be sustained.

Regardless, improving oil prices gave U.S. stock markets a boost. In particular, the Standard & Poor’s 500 benefited from improving performance in the energy sector:

“Of 80 U.S. listed oil and gas producers, all but one—a bankrupt company—rose on the day, with nearly half of the companies up more than 10 percent. Energy shares were the biggest gainers Wednesday in the S&P 500, up 3.8 percent and helped the S&P 500 on the whole gain 1.2 percent in late-afternoon trading.”

Barron’s reported energy stocks had gained 5 percent for the week but were still off by about 22 percent for the year.

OPEC released its World Oil Outlook last week. BBC reported that OPEC anticipates oil prices will begin to rise in 2016, although its producers’ share of the market is expected to shrink by 2020, as rival oil producers proved to be more resilient in the face of low oil prices than had been expected.

Data as of 12/24/15 1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks) 2.8% 0.1% -1.0% 13.1% 10.4% 5.1%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. 1.9 -6.2 -6.6 0.3 -0.7 0.7
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 2.2 NA 2.2 1.8 3.4 4.3
Gold (per ounce) 0.9 -10.6 -8.9 -13.6 -4.9 7.5
Bloomberg Commodity Index 1.3 -24.8 -26.1 -17.3 -13.2 -7.4
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index 2.0 2.6 1.7 10.6 11.8 7.2

Looking Back

Each week, The Economist Explains blog expounds on subjects ranging from current events to economics, from philosophical or scientific issues to everyday oddities. Let’s take a quick look at a few of its headlines during 2015:

  • Why the Swiss unpegged the Swiss franc (January 18, 2015). Remember when the Swiss National Bank removed its currency peg in January? The Swiss franc realized double-digit gains in value, and the Swiss stock market dropped.
  • Everything you want to know about falling oil prices (March 18, 2015). “The main reason for falling prices is increased supply from America thanks to its fracking boom, which has reduced its demand for oil imports. Other countries, notably Saudi Arabia, have been loath to curb supply lest they lose their share of the global oil market.”
  • Why so many Dutch people work part time (May 11, 2015). More than one-half of the working population in the Netherlands is employed part-time—a higher percentage than anywhere else in the world. “This is partly a relic of prevailing Christian attitudes which said that mothers should be home for tea time and partly down to the wide availability of well-paid ‘first tier’ part-time jobs.”
  • What Greece must do to receive a new bail-out (July 14, 2015). After challenging negotiations, Greece and its European creditors cut a deal, allowing the country to remain in the euro area.
  • China’s botched stock market rescue (July 30, 2015). Chinese stocks lost nearly a third of their value last summer. China’s authorities “resorted to heavy-handed measures to prop up swooning share prices, from pressuring banks to buy stocks to blocking big investors from selling theirs.”
  • Why is the Nobel Prize in chemistry given for things that are not chemistry (October 7, 2015)? Apparently, five of the last 10 Nobel chemistry prizes have been awarded for pursuits that might better be described as biology. A possible explanation is “the diversity of chemistry prizes reflects the fact that chemistry is found everywhere.”
  • How the Fed will raise interest rates (December 14, 2015). Just as the Federal Reserve employed unconventional monetary tools to stimulate the economy, it is using new policy tools to try to increase the fed funds rate.

We hope 2015 has been a memorable and rewarding year for you, and we look forward to working with you in the new year.

Weekly Fun—Think About It

“It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.”

— Rene Descartes, French philosopher, mathematician and scientist