Highlighted by Wednesday's (Dec. 14) FOMC rate policy announcement, the week as a whole saw its fair share of ups and downs, mostly confined to intra-day movement, but eventually ending mildly positive, at least for stocks.
The Dow recorded a pair of all-time closing highs on Monday and Tuesday, but failed to reach for the stars after the Fed announced a 0.25% hike in the federal funds rate, the first in exactly one year. The move from 0.25-0.50 to 0.50-0.75 triggered a sharp sell-off in Wednesday afternoon trading, though stocks recovered nicely on Thursday and ended flat on Friday.
If the week was uneventful for stocks, it was not the same for commodities, particularly silver and gold, or for the US dollar, which reached nearly-unprecedented highs over 102.20 on the Bloomberg dollar index. As the dollar gained, the precious metals were slammed, gold losing over $30 top to bottom, but eventually leveling off at $1134.60 at Friday's finish, a loss of just $26 from the rate announcement. Silver took a much harder hit, dropping in price on the COMEX from $17.10 an ounce on Wednesday to end the week about a buck lower, at $16.07, a six percent loss.
Following OPEC's announced production cuts for 2017, crude spiked over $55 per ounce, but retreated during the week, still ahead somewhat at 53.03 as the week's trading closed out. Despite the strong dollar - supposedly a brake on oil prices - oil managed to ramp up to the highest price in three years.
Financials and industrials led the way for US stocks, not surprisingly continuing the Dow rally spurred forward by notables Goldman Sachs, 3M, Boeing, and General Electric. The Dow Industrial Average being the only major index to finish in the green for the week, markets continue to show strength in only the largest of large caps while smaller stocks are only being nibbled upon and, in the main, sold. The fracturing of markets into large leaders and small losers cannot bode well for the continuation of any meaningful rally going forward.
Naturally, with the Fed hiking rates, if only modestly, Treasuries were sold, but mainly on the short-duration issues. The five-year note broke through the mythical 2.00% threshold this week (2.05%), while the 10-year popped briefly above 2.60%, clinging close to that level as markets went dark for the weekend (2.57%). A flattening yield curve was evident as the 30-year bond remained steady, at 3.16%, pushing down the spread between fives and thirties to a unitary 1.11%.
All of this came against a backdrop of national news media hyping futile and largely-baseless claims by the US intelligence community that Russia hacked the 2016 presidential election, somehow making Vladimir Putin responsible for the election of Donald J. Trump (who will be formally elected by the Electoral College on Monday) and the demise of Hillary Clinton, the choice of the much-discredited leftist status quo.
The folly of the intelligence claims was completely ignored by Wall Street, and rightly so. The last thing investors need is a fresh injection of political skullduggery, after slogging through nearly two years of endless campaign rhetoric from all sides.
With a week left before Christmas, retailers have yet to ring bells of any kind, neither of alarm or of joyous peals f profit. The Christmas shopping experience over the past decade has morphed from mad dashes on Black Friday to a controlled button-pushing event on computers nationwide, as the internet has revolutionized the retail buying experience and forever changed the shopping mall landscape and holiday experience.
With two weeks remaining in 2016, it's likely that markets will respond to calmer views going forward though a sharp Santa Claus rally, taking the Dow beyond 20,000, is a distinct possibility over the final ten trading days of the year.
At The Close: Friday, December 16
Dow: 19,848.60, -3.64 (-0.02%)
NASDAQ: 5,437.29, -19.56 (-0.36%)
S&P 500: 2,258.20, -3.83 (-0.17%)
NYSE Composite: 11,122.44, -9.46 (-0.08%)
For the Week:
Dow: +86.65 (0.44%)
NASDAQ: -7.34 (-0.13%)
S&P 500: -1.46 (-0.06%)
NYSE Composite: -66.57 (-0.59%)