Month of August 2021
Market Month: August 2021
The Markets (as of market close August 31, 2021)
The benchmark indexes enjoyed a solid August, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq reaching record highs
multiple times during the month. In fact, the S&P 500 recorded its seventh straight monthly advance — its
longest streak of monthly gains since January 2018. Each of the benchmarks is well ahead of its 2020
year-end value, led by the S&P 500, followed by the Nasdaq, the Global Dow, the Dow, and the Russell
2000. Ten-year Treasury yields increased and crude oil prices fell, while the dollar and gold prices inched
Stocks climbed higher in August, despite a drop in consumer confidence amid the spread of the Delta
variant and the possibility of travel restrictions. Growth and technology shares outperformed cyclicals. Each
of the market sectors gained, with only the energy sector sliding lower. Financials and communication
services advanced the most.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell may have done enough to help calm investors' concerns by
promoting the idea that interest rates will remain at their current level for some time, although a reduction in
the bond-buying stimulus program may begin before the end of the year. Inflationary pressures continued
to rise as prices at the consumer and producer levels increased in July.
Second-quarter GDP showed the economy expanded by nearly 7.0%. Sales of existing and new homes
advanced, as prices for new single-family homes rose, while prices for existing homes slid. Industrial
production increased. Close to 1.0 million new jobs were added in both June and July, while the
unemployment rate and the number of unemployment claims fell.
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.
Latest Economic Reports
- Employment: There were 943,000 new jobs added in July, keeping up with the pace of June's upwardly
revised estimate of 938,000 new jobs. Employment in July is up by 16.7 million since April 2020 but is
down by 5.7 million, or 3.7%, from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. Notable job growth in July
occurred in leisure and hospitality (+380,000), with over half of the job gain coming from food services
and drinking places (+253,000). Job gains also occurred in local government education (+221,000) and
private education (+40,000), professional and business services (+60,000), and transportation and
warehousing (+50,000). In July, the unemployment rate declined 0.5 percentage point to 5.4%, with the
number of unemployed persons falling by 782,000 to 8.7 million. These measures are down
considerably from their recent highs in April 2020 but remain well above their levels prior to the
pandemic (3.5% and 5.7 million, respectively, in February 2020). Among the unemployed, the number of
persons on temporary layoff dropped by 572,000 to 1.2 million. This measure is down considerably from
the recent high of 18.0 million in April 2020 but is 489,000 above the February 2020 level. In July, the
number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job was 6.5 million, little changed over the
month but up by 1.5 million since February 2020. In July, the number of employed persons who
teleworked because of the pandemic fell to 13.2%, down from 14.4% in the prior month. In July, 5.2
million persons reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost
business due to the pandemic. This measure is down from 6.2 million in June. The labor force
participation rate ticked up 0.1 percentage point to 61.7% in July, and the employment-population ratio
increased by 0.4 percentage point to 58.4%. Average hourly earnings increased by $0.11 to $30.54 in
July after increasing $0.10 in June. Average hourly earnings are up 4.0% from July 2020. The average
work week was unchanged at 34.8 hours in July.
- The number of claims for unemployment insurance continued to fall. According to the latest weekly
totals, as of August 14 there were 2,862,000 workers receiving unemployment insurance benefits, down
from the July 17 total of 3,269,000. The unemployment rate for the week ended August 14 was 2.1%,
down 0.3 percentage point from the July 17 rate of 2.4%. This is the lowest level for insured
unemployment since March 14, 2020, when it was 1,770,000. During the week ended August 7,
Extended Benefits were available in 10 states/territories: Alaska, California, Connecticut, the District of
Columbia, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Texas; 46 states reported
5,004,753 continued weekly claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits (5,246,162 in
July), and 47 states reported 3,793,956 continued claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment
Compensation benefits (4,233,883 in July).
- FOMC/interest rates: The Federal Open Market Committee did not meet in August. However, at the
Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reiterated that the
current spike in inflation is largely the result of transitory factors and that the FOMC will continue to hold
the current target range for the federal funds rate at its current level. Powell also noted that an eventual
reduction of monthly asset purchases is likely to begin some time before the end of 2021.
- GDP/budget: According to the second estimate, the economy accelerated at an annual rate of 6.6% in
the second quarter of 2021 after advancing 6.3% in the first quarter of 2021. Consumer spending, as
measured by personal consumption expenditures, increased 11.9% in the second quarter after rising
11.4% in the prior quarter. The personal consumption price index (prices for consumer goods and
services) rose 6.5% in the second quarter after climbing 3.8% in the first quarter. Excluding food and
energy, the price index increased 6.1%. In the second quarter, fixed investment climbed 3.4% following
a 13.0% increase in the first quarter; residential fixed investment fell 11.5% after increasing 13.3% in the
first quarter. Exports rose 6.6% in the second quarter after decreasing 2.9% in the first quarter, and
imports (which are a negative in the calculation of GDP) increased 6.7% in the second quarter (9.3% in
the first quarter).
- The Treasury budget deficit was $302.1 billion in July, following the June deficit of $174.2 billion. The
deficit is 380% larger than the deficit in July 2020. Following the latest increase, the budget deficit
through the first 10 months of the current fiscal year widened to $2.54 trillion, 10.0% lower than last
year's deficit over the same period. Compared to last fiscal year, government expenditures have
increased 4.0%, while receipts have increased 18.0%.
- Inflation/consumer spending: Prices at the consumer level continued to advance in July. According to
the latest Personal Income and Outlays report, consumer prices rose 0.4% in July after edging up 0.5%
in June. Prices have increased 4.2% since July 2020. Excluding food and energy, consumer prices rose
0.3% in July (0.4% in June) and 3.6% since July 2020. Both personal income and disposable (after-tax)
personal income increased 1.1% in July. Consumer spending rose 0.3% in July following a 1.1% jump in
- The Consumer Price Index climbed 0.5% in July, the same increase as in June. Over the 12 months
ended in July, the CPI rose 5.4%. Food prices increased 0.7% and new vehicle prices rose 1.7%.
Energy prices rose 1.6%, with gasoline prices climbing 2.4%. Core prices, excluding food and energy,
climbed 0.3% in July and have advanced 4.3% since July 2020. Over the last 12 months, energy prices
have risen 23.8%, food prices have increased 3.4%, and prices for used cars and trucks have climbed
- Prices that producers receive for goods and services continued to climb in July, increasing 1.0% for the
second consecutive month. Producer prices increased 7.8% for the 12 months ended in July, the largest
yearly gain since November 2010 when 12-month data was first calculated. In July, prices for services
rose 1.1% and prices for goods moved up 0.6%. Producer prices less foods, energy, and trade services
advanced 0.9% in July and have risen 6.1% since July 2020, the largest 12-month increase since
- Housing: Existing home prices advanced for the second consecutive month after climbing 2.0% in July.
Over the past 12 months, existing home sales increased 1.5%. The median existing-home price was
$359,900 in July ($363,300 in June), up 17.8% from July 2020. Total housing inventory at the end of
July rose 7.3% from June's supply but is down 12.0% from one year ago. Unsold inventory sits at a
2.6-month supply at the present sales pace, up slightly from the 2.5-month figure recorded in June but
down from 3.1 months in July 2020. Sales of existing single-family homes rose 2.7% in July following a
1.4% advance in June. Year over year, sales of existing single-family homes fell 0.8%. The median
existing single-family home price was $367,000 in July, down from $370,600 in June.
- New single-family home sales increased for the first time in four consecutive months after advancing
1.0% in July. Sales of new single-family homes have decreased 27.2% from July 2020. The median
sales price of new single-family houses sold in July was $390,500 ($361,800 in June). The July average
sales price was $446,000 ($428,700 in June). The inventory of new single-family homes for sale in July
represents a supply of 6.2 months at the current sales pace, up slightly from the June estimate of 6.0
- Manufacturing: Industrial production increased 0.9% in July after advancing 0.2% the previous month.
Manufacturing output rose 1.4% after edging down 0.1% in June. About half of the gain in factory output
was attributable to a jump of 11.2% for motor vehicles and parts, as a number of vehicle manufacturers
trimmed or canceled their typical July shutdowns. In July, mining increased 1.2% (0.5% in June), while
utilities slipped 2.1% after advancing 3.1% in June. Total industrial production in July was 6.6% higher
than its year-earlier level, but it was 0.2% below its pre-pandemic (February 2020) level.
- New orders for durable goods decreased 0.1% in July after falling 0.8% in June. Transportation drove
July's decrease, with new orders down 2.2% after advancing 1.4% in June. Excluding transportation,
new orders increased 0.7%. Excluding defense, new orders fell 1.2%. New orders for nondefense
capital goods declined 8.0% following a 1.6% increase in June. New orders for defense capital goods
increased 20.5% in July after decreasing 1.4% in June.
- Imports and exports: Inflationary pressures at the import level slowed in July. Import prices rose 0.3%
following a 1.1% advance in June. Import prices rose 10.2% over the 12 months ended in July (11.2%
for the 12 months ended in June). The monthly advance in import prices was the lowest since November
2020. Import fuel prices increased 2.9% in July following a 5.5% jump in June. Import fuel prices
advanced 66.5% for the year ended in July (85.1% for the year ended in June). Nonfuel import prices
were unchanged in July following a 0.7% advance in June. Export prices increased 1.3% in July after
climbing 1.2% in June. For the year ended in July, the price index for exports rose 17.2%. Agricultural
export prices fell 1.7% in July following a 1.5% advance in June. Nonagricultural exports rose 1.6% in
July after increasing 1.1% in June.
- The international trade in goods deficit was $86.4 billion in July, down $5.7 billion, or 6.2%, from June. In
July, exports increased $2.2 billion, or 1.5%, while imports fell $3.4 billion, or 1.4%. For the 12 months
ended in July, exports have risen 27.6%, while imports have increased 19.6%.
- The latest information on international trade in goods and services, out August 5, is for June and shows
that the goods and services trade deficit increased by 6.7% to $75.7 billion. June exports rose 0.6%,
while imports increased 2.1%. At $284.0 billion, imports of goods and services were the highest on
record. Year over year, the goods and services deficit increased $135.8 billion, or 46.4%, from June
2020. Exports increased $150.9 billion, or 14.3%. Imports increased $286.7 billion, or 21.3%.
- International markets: Inflationary pressures may be slowing at home and around the world. China's
Consumer Price Index rose 0.3% in July and is up only 1.0% year over year. Prices were flat in the
United Kingdom in July and have increased 2.0% since July 2020. However, prices in the Eurozone
picked up in August, climbing 0.4% for the month and 3.0% over the past 12 months. Overall economic
growth is trending upward as well. Second-quarter GDP for the Eurozone rose 2.0% and is up 13.6%
year over year. The United Kingdom's GDP advanced 4.8% in the second quarter and 22.2% for the
year. China's economy continues to rebound, as its GDP rose 7.9% in the second quarter from a year
ago. For August, the STOXX Europe 600 Index gained about 1.2%; the United Kingdom's FTSE inched
up 0.3%; Japan's Nikkei 225 Index rose 1.1%; and China's Shanghai Composite Index increased nearly
- Consumer confidence: According to the latest report from The Conference Board, consumer
confidence declined in August for the second consecutive month. The Consumer Confidence Index®
stands at 113.8, down marginally from 125.1 in July. The Present Situation Index, based on consumers'
assessment of current business and labor market conditions, fell to 147.3 in August from 157.2 in July.
The Expectations Index, based on consumers' short-term outlook for income, business, and labor
market conditions, registered 91.4 in August, down from 103.8 in July. According to the report, concerns
about the Delta variant, coupled with rising gas and food prices, resulted in a less favorable view of
current economic conditions.
Eye on the Month Ahead
September could see the economy and the stock market slow down a tad. The number of coronavirus
cases continues to rise prompting several foreign countries to consider re-instituting travel restrictions. In
addition, the Federal Reserve has indicated that it is likely to begin tapering the bond purchase program in
2021, which could make investors a bit skittish in anticipation of such a move.
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
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relied on as financial advice. Forecasts are based on current conditions, subject to change, and may not
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded
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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.
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