Month of February 2021
Market Month: February 2021
The Markets (as of market close February 26, 2021)
February began on a high note as investors drew encouragement from strong fourth-quarter earnings
reports and encouraging employment data. However, news was not all positive. The COVID-related death
toll in the United States reached 500,000. Nevertheless, two vaccines were rolled out last month, with a
third one on tap for release in March.
While rhetoric surrounding additional fiscal stimulus continued throughout the month, February saw no
congressional deal reached. However, the Federal Reserve continued to offer assurances that continued
accommodative measures would remain in place for the foreseeable future.
February saw crude oil and gasoline prices surge. COVID-19 hit economies hard and restricted travel,
which limited the demand for oil and gas. In response, several oil-producing countries slashed oil
production. However, despite economies gradually recovering and travel picking up, oil-producing nations
have been slow to increase production, causing crude oil and gas prices to climb.
Last month also offered more evidence that the economy is slowly regaining some positive momentum.
The employment report included the addition of about 50,000 new jobs. The number of unemployed
continues to drop, but remains significantly above pre-pandemic levels. The fourth-quarter GDP advanced
4.1%. Industrial production advanced for a second consecutive month, and the housing sector maintained
Despite closing the month on a downturn, stocks ended February in the black. The small caps of the
Russell 2000 added 6.1%, followed by the Global Dow, the Dow, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq. The
Russell 2000 remains well ahead of its 2020 closing value, followed by the Global Dow, the Nasdaq, the
S&P 500, and the Dow.
The market sectors ended the month mixed, with energy advancing 16.1%, followed by financials (8.4%),
real estate (3.2%), industrials (3.2%), and communication services (2.6%). Both consumer discretionary
and utilities lost 5.9%. Health care dropped 3.6%, followed by information technology (-2.5%), consumer
staples (-1.4%), and materials (-0.2%).
The yield on 10-year Treasuries gained 37 basis points. The dollar inched ahead, and crude oil prices
surged past $60.00 per barrel after climbing over 18.0% in February. Gold fell for the second consecutive
The national average retail price for regular gasoline was $2.633 on February 22, $0.241 higher than the
January 25 selling price of $2.392, and $0.078 more than a year ago.
Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.
Last Month's Economic Headlines
- Employment: Employment added 49,999 new jobs in January after decreasing by 140,000 in
December. In December, the unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 6.3%, and the number
of unemployed persons decreased by 600,000 to 10.1 million. Although both measures are much lower
than their April highs, they remain well above their pre-pandemic levels in February 2020 (3.5% and 5.7
million, respectively). Among the unemployed, the number of persons on temporary layoff decreased in
January to 2.7 million. This measure is down considerably from the recent high of 18.0 million in April
but is 2.0 million higher than its February 2020 level. In January, the number of persons not in the labor
force who currently want a job, at 7.0 million, was little changed over the month (7.3 million in
December) but is 2.3 million higher than in February 2020. In January, the number of employed persons
who teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic edged down to 23.2%, 0.5 percentage point lower
than December. In January, 14.8 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because
their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic. This measure is 1.1 million lower than in
December. In January, notable job growth occurred in professional and business services (97,000), local
government education (49,000), management and technical consulting services (16,000), computer
systems design and related services (11,000), and scientific research and development services
(10,000). In January, employment in leisure and hospitality declined by 61,000, following a steep decline
in December (-536,000). The labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio were
little changed over the month, at 61.54% and 57.5%, respectively. Average hourly earnings increased by
$0.06 to $29.96 in January and are up 5.4% from a year ago. The average work week increased by 0.3
hour to 35.0 hours in January.
- Claims for unemployment insurance continued to drop in February. According to the latest weekly totals,
as of February 20 there were 4,419,000 workers receiving unemployment insurance benefits, down from
the January 23 total of 4,881,750. The insured unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage point to 3.1%.
During the week ended February 6, Extended Benefits were available in 18 states (19 states during the
week of January 9); 51 states reported 7,518,951 continued weekly claims for Pandemic Unemployment
Assistance benefits (7,334,193 in January), and 51 states reported 5,065,890 continued claims for
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits (3,863,548 in January).
- FOMC/interest rates: The Federal Open Market Committee did not met in February and is scheduled to
meet during the third week of March. It will bear watching how the Committee responds to signs that the
economy and inflationary pressures are showing signs of picking up steam.
- GDP/budget: The gross domestic product advanced at an annual rate of 4.1% in the fourth quarter of
2020. The GDP increased 33.4% in the third quarter after contracting 31.4% in the second quarter.
Consumer spending, as measured by personal consumption expenditures, increased 2.4% in the fourth
quarter after surging 41.0% in the third quarter. Nonresidential (business) fixed investment climbed
14.0% following a 22.9% increase in the third quarter; residential fixed investment continued to advance,
increasing 35.8% in the fourth quarter after soaring 63.0% in the prior quarter. Exports advanced 21.8%
in the fourth quarter (59.6% in the third quarter), and imports increased 29.6% in the fourth quarter
(93.1% in the third quarter). Federal nondefense government expenditures decreased 8.9% in the fourth
quarter following a third-quarter decline of 18.3% as federal stimulus payments and aid lessened. The
GDP fell 3.5% in 2020 after increasing 2.2% in 2019. Personal consumption expenditures dropped
2.63%; nonresidential fixed investment declined 0.53%; residential fixed investment rose 0.23%; exports
dropped 1.47%; imports rose 1.33%; and nondefense government spending advanced 0.14%.
- The federal budget deficit in January came in at a smaller-than-expected $162.8 billion, but is still five
times higher than the January 2020 deficit of $32.6 billion. The deficit for the first four months of fiscal
year 2021, at $735.7 billion, is $346.5 billion, or nearly 89%, higher than the first four months of the
previous fiscal year. Through January, government outlays, at $547.5 billion, were 35% above the
January 2020 figure, while receipts increased only 3%. Economic Impact Payments of $139 billion were
a major contributor to the increased January outlays.
- Inflation/consumer spending: Inflationary pressures showed definite signs of increasing in January.
According to the latest Personal Income and Outlays report, personal income climbed 10.0% in January,
and disposable personal income advanced 11.4% after each index increased 0.6% in December.
Consumer spending increased 2.4% in January after falling 0.4% the previous month. Consumer prices
edged up 0.3% in January after climbing 0.4% in December. Over the last 12 months, consumer prices
increased 1.5%, personal income advanced 6.1%, while personal consumption expenditures (consumer
spending) dipped 2.7%.
- The Consumer Price Index climbed 0.3% in January after advancing 0.2% (revised) in December. This
is the largest monthly gain since August 2020. Over the 12 months ended in January, the CPI rose
1.4%. The increase in the index was driven by a 7.4% increase in gasoline prices. The food prices rose
marginally in January, edging up just 0.1%. The CPI less food and energy prices was unchanged in
January, but is up 1.4% over the past 12 months. In January, prices for apparel rose 2.2% (0.9% in
December), while prices for new vehicles and used cars and trucks dropped 0.5% and 0.9%,
- Prices that producers receive for goods and services advanced 1.3% in January — the largest monthly
increase in the history of the index. Producer prices increased 1.7% for the 12 months ended in January
2021, which is the largest yearly gain since climbing 2.0% for the 12 months ended in January 2020.
Producer prices less foods, energy, and trade services rose for the ninth consecutive month after
advancing 1.2% in January. Food prices increased 0.2% in January, while energy prices climbed 5.1%.
- Housing: The housing sector continued to advance in January. Sales of existing homes rose 0.6% in
January after climbing 0.7% in December. Over the past 12 months, existing home sales increased
23.7%. The median existing-home price was $303,900 in January ($309,800 in December), up 14.1%
from January 2020. Unsold inventory of existing homes fell 25.7% from January 2020 and represents a
1.9-month supply at the current sales pace, a record low. Sales of existing single-family homes also
increased, climbing 0.2% in January after advancing 1.4% in December. Year over year, sales of
existing single-family homes rose 23.0%. The median existing single-family home price was $308,300 in
January, up from $272,200 in December.
- New single-family home sales also advanced, climbing 4.3% in January after advancing 1.6% in
December. Sales of new single-family homes have increased 19.3% since January 2020. The median
sales price of new single-family houses sold in January was $346,400 ($353,100 in December). The
January average sales price was $408,800 ($394,900 in December). The inventory of new single-family
homes for sale in January represents a supply of 4.0 months at the current sales pace, down slightly
from the December estimate of 4.1 months.
- Manufacturing: The manufacturing sector is clearly trending upward. Industrial production advanced
0.9% in January after climbing 1.6% in December. Manufacturing output rose 1.0%, mining production
advanced 2.3%, while the output of utilities declined 1.2%. Total industrial production in January was
1.8% lower than it was a year earlier and 1.8% below its January 2020 reading. Notable increases in
January include machinery output (0.5%), aircraft output (2.9%), consumer goods (0.7%), and materials
- For the ninth consecutive month, new orders for durable goods increased in January, soaring 3.4%
following a 1.2% jump in December. Transportation, up eight of the last nine months, led the increase,
advancing 7.8%. New orders for aircraft drove the transportation sector. New orders for nondefense
aircraft and parts vaulted 389.9% in January, while new orders for defense aircraft and parts climbed
63.5%. Excluding transportation, new orders increased 1.4%. Excluding defense, new orders increased
2.3% in January (1.4% in December). New orders for capital goods increased 8.5% in January after
falling 1.2% in December.
- Imports and exports: Both import and export prices rose higher in January for the second consecutive
month. Import prices climbed 1.4% in January following a 1.0% increase the prior month. The January
increase was the largest monthly advance since March 2012. Import fuel prices rose 7.4% in January
following an 8.1% increase in December. Despite the recent increases, import fuel prices decreased
13.4% for the year ended in January. Nevertheless, the 12-month decrease in fuel prices was the
smallest over-the-year drop for the index since February 2020. Nonfuel import prices rose 0.8% in
January following a 0.4% advance the previous month. Export prices advanced 2.5% in January after
advancing 1.3% in December. The price index for exports rose 2.3% for the year ended in January, the
largest 12-month increase since the index advanced 3.1% in October 2018. Agricultural export prices
increased 6.0% in January following a 0.9% advance in December. Nonagricultural exports rose 2.2% in
January, the largest one-month increase since the index was first published monthly in December 1988.
- In January, the international trade in goods deficit was $83.7 billion, up 0.7% over December's deficit.
Exports increased 1.4% and imports advanced 1.1%. For the 12 months ended in January, exports have
fallen 0.7%, while imports have jumped 8.2%.
- The latest information on international trade in goods and services, out February 5, is for December and
shows that the goods and services trade deficit was $66.6 billion, 3.5% under the November deficit.
December exports were $190.0 billion, or 3.4%, more than November exports. December imports were
$256.6 billion, or 1.5%, more than November imports. For 2020, the goods and services deficit was
$678.7 billion, up $101.9 billion from the 2019 deficit. Exports were $2,131.9 billion, down $396.4 billion
from 2019. Imports were $2,810.6 billion, down $294.5 billion from 2019.
- International markets: Economic recovery from the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
has been slow to ramp up. The gross domestic product for the Eurozone was at an annualized rate of
-0.6% for the fourth quarter and -5.0% for 2020. Within this group, the fourth-quarter GDP for France fell
1.3%, Italy dipped 2.0%, and Austria plunged 4.3%. On the other hand, the fourth-quarter GDP for
Germany and Spain advanced 0.1% and 0.4%, respectively. In China, the Consumer Price Index
increased 1.0% in January, but fell 0.3% year over year. In the markets, the EURO STOXX gained
about 3.6% in January; the United Kingdom's FTSE inched up 1.2%; Japan's Nikkei 225 advanced
4.7%; and China's Shanghai Composite Index added about 1.0%.
- Consumer confidence: The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® improved again in
February after increasing in January. The index stood at 91.3 in February, up from 88.9 in January. The
Present Situation Index, based on consumers' assessment of current business and labor market
conditions, increased from January's 85.5 to 92.0 in February. The Expectations Index, based on
consumers' short-term outlook for income, business, and labor market conditions, fell from 91.2 in
January to 90.8 in February.
Eye on the Month Ahead
The economy continues to show signs of recovery. Decreasing numbers of COVID cases and increasing
distribution of vaccines provide some measure of optimism that some semblance of normalcy is
approaching. Focus will be on the FOMC, which meets in March for the first time since January. The
Committee could project a timeline for scaling back the quantitative easing that has been in place for more
than a year.
Data sources: Economic: Based on data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (unemployment, inflation);
U.S. Department of Commerce (GDP, corporate profits, retail sales, housing); S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City
Composite Index (home prices); Institute for Supply Management (manufacturing/services). Performance:
Based on data reported in WSJ Market Data Center (indexes); U.S. Treasury (Treasury yields); U.S.
Energy Information Administration/Bloomberg.com Market Data (oil spot price, WTI Cushing, OK);
www.goldprice.org (spot gold/silver); Oanda/FX Street (currency exchange rates). News items are based
on reports from multiple commonly available international news sources (i.e. wire services) and are
independently verified when necessary with secondary sources such as government agencies, corporate
press releases, or trade organizations. All information is based on sources deemed reliable, but no
warranty or guarantee is made as to its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion
expressed herein constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any securities, and should not be
relied on as financial advice. U.S. Treasury securities are guaranteed by the federal government as to the
timely payment of principal and interest. The principal value of Treasury securities and other bonds
fluctuate with market conditions. Bonds are subject to inflation, interest-rate, and credit risks. As interest
rates rise, bond prices typically fall. A bond sold or redeemed prior to maturity may be subject to loss. Past
performance is no guarantee of future results. All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of
principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded
blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common
stocks of 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The NASDAQ Composite Index
is a market-value weighted index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The Russell
2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2,000 U.S. small-cap common stocks. The Global Dow
is an equally weighted index of 150 widely traded blue-chip common stocks worldwide. The U.S. Dollar
Index is a geometrically weighted index of the value of the U.S. dollar relative to six foreign currencies.
Market indices listed are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment.
This information has been designed for general informational and educational purposes only and does not
constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security. Such offers can only be made
where lawful under applicable law. These materials have been obtained and derived based on information
from public and private sources that Zhang Financial LLC believes to be reliable. However, no
representation, warranty or undertaking, stated or implied, is given as to the accuracy or completeness of
the information contained herein, and Zhang Financial LLC expressly disclaims any liability for the accuracy
and completeness of this information. Zhang Financial LLC does not intend to provide investment advice
through these materials and does not represent that any market position, economic forecast, securities or
services are suitable for any investor. Investors are advised not to rely on these materials in the process of
making a fully informed investment decision and they do not render business, tax or legal advice. Each
client or prospective client should consult his/her own attorney, business advisor and tax advisor as to
legal, business, tax and related matters concerning the information contained herein. The information,
opinions and views contained herein have not been tailored to the investment objectives of any one
individual, are current only as of the date noted and may be subject to change at any time without prior
notice. Past performance does not guarantee future results. All investing involves risk of loss including the
possible loss of principal.
Minimum investment requirement: $1,000,000 in Michigan, $2,000,000 outside of Michigan.
Investment Advice offered through Zhang Financial, a Fee-Only Wealth Management Group.