Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Oil prices flounder, stock markets plunge, and Fed expresses doubt

The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee held its first 2016 meeting this week, but it wasn't all roses and sunflowers following their historic move to start boosting interest rates in December.

Instead, Fed committee members expressed doubt about the U.S. economy's blossoming growth, which they said slowed late in 2015 despite an improved job market.

Oil prices continue to drop amid global economic unrest, particularly in China, one of the world's most influential economies. Private sector powerhouses Apple and Boeing have produced poor outlooks this month, which also dragged stock market industrial averages lower this week.

The Fed will hold its next meeting in mid-March, and depending on how the economic picture adjusts, a slight increase in central interest rates is possible. Many analysts expected four slight rate increases to come in 2016, but that will largely depend on how Fed officials interpret economic data in coming months. They will be paying attention to see if wage growth, stock markets and inflation rates improve before budging on interest rates.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Yin and yang: Good news greets end of bad week for stock market

Shanghai, China's skyline is pictured at night.

Stock markets take a hit, but 2015 jobs data comes in strong

The first full week of 2016 was marked by the U.S. stock market's worst week of losses since 2011.  The Dow Jones industrial average, Standard & Poor's and Nasdaq indices all dropped about 1 percent, respectively.

Stock markets were dominated by concerns over China's stunted economic growth as well as oil prices continuing to fall. A barrel of crude oil was selling for less than $34, the lowest figure since 2004.

To answer the week of losses, however, the December jobs report came in Friday with rosier figures. About 292,000 non-farm jobs were added to U.S. payrolls and the unemployment rate stayed steady at 5 percent despite more people entering the job force. Overall in 2015, roughly 2.65 million American jobs were added to the economy, the second highest total since 1999.

Although wage growth reversed slightly in December, wages rose on average 2.5 percent overall in 2015, a decent figure considering price inflation was nearly nonexistent for the year. The average hourly wage for an American worker clocked in at $25.24 to end 2015.

While the stock markets suffered, mortgage interest rates dropped to end 2016's first week. As long as global economic fears persist and oil prices slump, interest rates should stay at very attractive levels.