In a week fraught with economic uncertainty and market volatility, major U.S. indexes took a beating as investors anxiously awaited Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s upcoming speech at the annual central bank summit in Jackson Hole. The Dow Jones, S&P 500, and Nasdaq closed deeply in the red, driven by concerns over rising bond yields. Notably, megacap stocks like Tesla, Apple, and Amazon suffered losses, while Nvidia’s stock defied the trend by reaching a record high. Boeing faced its own troubles, with shares plummeting due to improper drilling on some 737 planes.
On the data front, weekly jobless claims dropped, but the labor market remained tight. Additionally, former Fed member James Bullard suggested that a robust summer economy might delay the Fed’s plans to raise interest rates further.
Mortgage Rates Surge to 22-Year High
One of the most significant developments this week was the meteoric rise in mortgage rates. The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage surged to 7.23%, a level not seen since 2001. This sharp increase is attributed to the hawkish outlook for the Federal Reserve, which has implications for American consumers. Just a year ago, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate was a comparatively modest 5.55%.
Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist, Sam Khater, remarked, „As rates remain high and the supply of unsold homes remains woefully low, incoming data shows that existing home sales continue to fall. However, there are slightly more new homes available, and sales of these new homes continue to rise, helping provide modest relief to the unyielding housing inventory predicament.”
Mixed Economic Indicators
The Chicago Fed National Activity Index showed mixed signals in July 2023, increasing to 0.12 from an upwardly revised -0.33 in June. This is the highest it has been in a year. Production-related indicators contributed positively, while employment-related indicators declined. Meanwhile, the index’s three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, increased slightly.
Dollar Index Strengthens
The dollar index, a gauge of the currency’s performance against a basket of major rivals, rose above 103.5. This upward movement, nearing an eleven-week high, was largely due to the cautious anticipation of Jerome Powell’s address at the Jackson Hole Symposium. Bullard’s comments about the potential delay in raising interest rates added to this uncertainty.
Pound’s Precarious Position
The British pound faced a sharp decline, falling to $1.26, its lowest level since late June. Investors’ concerns stemmed from weaker-than-expected PMI data and warnings from the Bank of England about the potential for significant corporate defaults. UK business activity contracted more than anticipated, with service sector output contracting at the joint-fastest pace in 31 months.
Bitcoin’s Rollercoaster Ride
In the cryptocurrency sphere, Bitcoin experienced a rollercoaster ride, trading around $26,100 and falling 7% in the last seven days. This drop reflects the broader market turbulence and uncertainty surrounding global economic conditions.
In conclusion, this week’s financial landscape has been marked by heightened volatility and uncertainty. Investors are eagerly awaiting Jerome Powell’s speech, hoping for guidance on the Fed’s monetary policy direction. With mortgage rates at their highest levels in over two decades, the housing market faces challenges. Mixed economic indicators and a strengthening dollar contribute to the prevailing uncertainty, while the British pound struggles under the weight of economic concerns. In the cryptocurrency realm, Bitcoin’s recent fluctuations mirror the broader financial unease, highlighting the interconnectedness of global markets in these turbulent times.
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