The number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits declined. Just 684,000 people filed claims during the week of March 20, down 97,000 from the week before, according to last week’s report from the Labor Department.
Granted, that’s a large number – higher than the highest number of first-time claims during the Great Recession – but it’s the smallest we’ve seen since the pandemic began, according to Christopher Rugaber of the AP. He wrote:
“Economists are growing more optimistic that the pace of layoffs, which has been chronically high for a full year, is finally easing…Still, a total of 18.9 million people are continuing to collect jobless benefits…Roughly one-third of those recipients are in extended federal aid programs, which means they’ve been unemployed for at least six months.”
Consumer sentiment also improved, according to data released last week. The University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment was up 10.5 percent month-to-month, although it remained down year-over-year. Perceptions of current economic conditions improved, too. Surveys of Consumers chief economist Richard Curtin reported:
“Consumer sentiment continued to rise in late March, reaching its highest level in a year due to the third disbursement of relief checks and better than anticipated vaccination progress…The majority of consumers reported hearing of recent gains in the national economy, mainly net job gains. The data clearly point toward robust increases in consumer spending. The ultimate strength and duration of the spending surge will depend on the rate of draw-downs in savings since consumers anticipate a slower pace of income growth.”
Performance of major U.S. stock indices was mixed last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index both finished higher for the week, while the Nasdaq Composite lost ground.
(The one-year numbers in the scorecard are noteworthy. They reflect the strong recovery of U.S. stocks from last year’s coronavirus downturn to the present day.)
Investors are always looking for news that might lead them to new trends in the market. Here are a few fascinating tidbits from last week:
- Currency competition. China would really like the yuan to replace the U.S. dollar as the world’s favored currency. Reuters reported, “…the global system for financial messaging and cross-border payments, has set up a joint venture with the Chinese central bank’s digital currency research institute and clearing centre, a move some see as a sign that China wants to explore global use of its planned digital yuan.”
- Putting a price tag on nature. The Treasury of the United Kingdom commissioned an expert panel to evaluate the contributions of species and ecosystems to the size and growth of economies and evaluate how loss of biodiversity will affect economies in the future. The 600-page Dasgupta Review reports that sustaining the world’s current level of economic growth and standards of living (a.k.a. “global demand for the biosphere’s goods and services and the biosphere’s current capacity to supply them on a sustainable basis”) will require 1.6 Earths.
- Veggies telling tales. Scientists are finding ways to help plants monitor the environment and communicate their findings. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) embedded nanotubes in spinach plants to look for chemical compounds found in explosives, like landmines. MIT News explained, “When one of these chemicals is present in the groundwater sampled naturally by the plant, carbon nanotubes embedded in the plant leaves emit a fluorescent signal that can be read with an infrared camera. The camera can be attached to a small computer similar to a smartphone, which then sends an email to the user.”
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Weekly Focus – Think About It
“Everything in a modern container port is enormous, overwhelming, crushing. Kendal, of course, but also the thundering trucks, the giant boxes in many colors, the massive gantry cranes that straddle the quay, reaching up ten stories and over to ships that stretch three football pitches in length. There are hardly any humans to be seen.”
--Rose George, British journalist and author
Andrew Zittell is a Registered Representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Strategic Wealth Advisors Group, LLC a Registered Investment Advisor. Yerba Buena Financial Partners and Strategic Wealth Advisors Group, LLC are separate entities from LPL Financial.
https://www.ft.com/content/3cbfa2dc-791b-47fa-a5f8-31d1b9a1757d (or go to https://resources.carsongroup.com/hubfs/WMC-Source/2021/03-29-21_FinancialTimes-US_Offers_to_Help_Egypt_Unblock_Suez_Canal-Footnote_7.pdf)
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/suez-canal-ship-blockage-ever-given/2021/03/26/357f8ae8-8da8-11eb-a33e-da28941cb9ac_story.html (or go to https://resources.carsongroup.com/hubfs/WMC-Source/2021/03-29-21_TheWashingtonPost-Piracy_Fears_Mount_as_Ships_Take_Long_Way_Around_Africa_to_Avoid_Blocked_Suez_Canal-Footnote_8.pdf)
https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2021/02/11/container-shipping-costs-have-surged-in-recent-months (or go to https://resources.carsongroup.com/hubfs/WMC-Source/2021/03-29-21_TheEconomist-Container-Shipping_Costs_have_Surged_in_Recent_Months-Footnote_9.pdf)
https://books.google.com/books?id=ua0a4xIdJvUC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false (or go to https://resources.carsongroup.com/hubfs/WMC-Source/2021/03-29-21_Book_Excerpt-Ninety_Percent_of_Everything-Footnote_11.pdf)