Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lower markets on increased fighting in Iraq

Dow dropped 66, decliners over advancers 2-1 & NAZ was off 21.  The MLP index lost 1+ to 500 & the REIT index fell 2+ to the 296s.  Junk bond funds were higher & Treasuries gained.  Oil climbed to an 8-month high & stocks slumped as violence escalated across Iraq.  In this environment, gold found buyers.

Dow Jones Industrials

CLN14.NYM...Crude Oil Jul 14...106.11 Up ...1.71 (1.6%)

GCN14.CMX...Gold Jul 14.......1,266.00 Up ...5.10 (0.4%)

Retail sales rose less than forecast in May as American consumers took a respite following a 3-month surge in shopping that has underpinned economic growth.  The 0.3% increase in purchases last month followed a revised 0.5% gain in Apr that was much larger than previously estimated, according to the Commerce Dept.  The forecast called for a 0.6% advance.  May marked the 4th consecutive gain in sales.  Consumers are increasing spending as a healing job market & rising home values boost balance sheets.  Higher May sales from auto lots to stores signal vitality in household spending though bigger wage gains may be needed to sustain the momentum.  6 of 13 major retail categories showed gains last month, indicating the advance wasn’t broad-based.  The increase was paced by a pickup in demand at auto dealers & service stations.  Excluding those categories, sales were unchanged after a 0.3% increase in Apr that was previously estimated as a 0.1% drop.  Job market improvement is probably underpinning spending, giving more American households the means to shop so far.

May Sales Rise Less Than Forecast as Americans Take Respite

Applications for unemployment benefits in the US rose to 317K last week, holding below this year’s average & signaling sustained progress in the labor market.  Jobless claims climbed 4K, according to the Labor Dept.  The forecast was for 310K.  Claims have averaged around 324K in 2014.  Faster sales over time would make it easier for those employers whose headcounts are lean to step up hiring.  While payroll gains are on pace for their best year since 1999, stronger wage growth is needed to help provide a bigger push for consumer spending.  The 4-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, climbed to 315K from 310K in the prior week.  The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits increased 11K to 2.61M & the unemployment rate among those eligible for benefits held at 2%.

Jobless Claims in U.S. Increased Last Week to 317,000

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
Photo:   Bloomberg

As his army flees from an al-Qaeda splinter group, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is rallying Shiite militias to defend his gov, raising the specter of civil war in OPEC’s 2nd-biggest oil producer.  In a televised news conference yesterday Maliki urged citizens to take up arms after the Islamic State in Iraq & the Levant group (ISIL) seized control of the northern city of Mosul, stealing weapons & helicopters from police & army bases as Iraqi gov forces fled.  He vowed to build an army of volunteers to “pull the thorns out by ourselves.”  By countering Sunni militants with elements of his own Shiite support, Maliki risks reigniting the sectarian conflict that flared after the 2003 US invasion that led to the ouster of Saddam Hussein.  At its worst, in 2006 & 2007, thousands of civilians were losing their lives every month.  ISIL has been carving out a base in western Iraq along the border with Syria, where it’s fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad, & its territorial gains pose an increasing threat to the unity of Iraq.  Its militants seized the western city of Fallujah in Jan & Maliki has been using regular forces to try to recapture it ever since.  His turn to the militias now lays bare the central gov’s inability to control the country.  More confusion in this volatile region is not good for the stock market.

Maliki Turns to Militias to Halt Militant Onslaught

The intl picture is going from bad to worse.  Iraq is a very important country in an unstable region & nobody knows what this growing conflict will lead to or where it may spread.  Those 5 bad guys in Qatar under sort of house arrest are.raising tensions in the area.  Thousands of kids from Central America flooding across the southern border of the US is becoming another huge problem that the US doesn't know what to do about.  All these stories are pushing the VA disaster to a a back-burner.  There is a clear absence of leadership in DC & bad guys are capitalizing on these messes.  Stock markets are finally taking notice.

Dow Jones Industrials

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