"To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe." - Anatole France
BASKING RIDGE, NJ- In the last full trading week of 2016, domestic markets were relatively quiet, with many people out of the office for the holidays. Nonetheless, all three major domestic indexes ended the week in positive territory. The S&P 500 was up 0.25%, the Dow gained 0.46%, and the NASDAQ added 0.47%. International equities in the MSCI EAFE were also up, increasing by 0.36%. The Dow continued to flirt with surpassing the 20,000 mark for the first time - reaching within fewer than 13 points at its highest trading point on Wednesday, December 20 - before closing at 19,933.81 for the week.
Outside of the markets, we received a number of reports that painted a mostly positive view of the U.S. economy.
- GDP revised up again: For its final report on economic growth in the third quarter, the Commerce Department adjusted the GDP up for the second time - to a 3.5% annual rate. This analysis shows the fastest economic growth in two years.
- Consumer sentiment hits nearly 13-year high: The monthly index measuring consumers' views on the current and future state of the economy increased by 4.7 points to reach 98.2 for December. This reading is the highest since January 2004.
- New home sales beat expectations: Economists predicted that new home sales for November would increase by 2.1%, but last week's data showed the increase was in fact 5.2%. Consumers anticipating higher interest rates in the future could be contributing to the expectation-beating results.
- Personal incomes stayed flat: Despite economists' predictions that personal incomes would increase by 0.3% in November, the Bureau of Economic Analysis' data showed them flatten. Even with last month's stagnation, personal incomes are up 3.5% for the year.
- Durable goods orders declined: After increasing by 4.8% in October, durable goods orders dropped by 4.6% in November - due largely to a 73.5% decrease in civilian aircraft orders. While no one likes to see a decrease, the report had several positive highlights, including an unexpectedly high increase in orders for U.S.-made capital goods.
Overall, even though last week was fairly slow for trading, we continue to see signs that the economy is improving - even if it is still far from perfect. We look forward to discovering what 2017 holds for investors and hope for more record highs and an economy that picks up speed as time goes on.
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