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Market's Summer "Hangover" Continues

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Thursday morning is almost always time for Initial and Continuing Jobless Claims, and after the utter decimations we saw last spring — with an all-time record high 6.87 million new claims filed in a single week — we had lately grown accustomed to a near-term low plateau, gradually sinking below a million, 900K, 800K… no longer. We now look to have reversed course, albeit gradually: 870K Initial Jobless Claims were reported in the past week, more than the upwardly revised 866K the previous week, and definitely more than the 850K expected.

Already these numbers were troublingly high; after spending the late summer ushering in the Great Reopening, snags occurred in various regions where new Covid-19 outbreaks sprang up. For several weeks, we saw weekly claims gradually minimize the damage, although hopes for a more wide-ranging boost to the U.S. labor market began to disintegrate over time with the stubborn plateau of historically still-high claims. But coming down was still a sign of progress. Investors now hope this apparent turn-around is a mere blip on the screen.

Continuing Claims managed to tick down, though it reports a week in arrears from Initial Claims, to 12.58 million longer-term unemployment claims from an upwardly revised 12.75 million the previous week. A slight melt-down to 12.2 million had been expected by analysts, which is still obviously very high, though an improvement. Based on the week-earlier results for Continuing Claims, shall we expect next week’s numbers to tick upward, as well?

The other notable economic report expected today comes after the opening bell, with New Home Sales for August. Expected are 900K sales to have been gained last month, slightly down from the 901K posted in July, but still representing a nice ramp-up to levels we’ve not seen since the housing boom over a decade ago. With mortgage rates remaining at historic lows and plenty of pent-up demand in the market (for those who can afford it), household formation looks to be a continued bright spot in a rather gloomy trading month to this point.

A half-hour prior to Thursday’s open, the Nasdaq is down another 140 points, still unspooling the massive amounts of buys we were seeing a month ago among tech stocks, the Dow is -120 points and the S&P 500 is -20. We appear to be headed for a fourth-straight week of sell-off “hangover” from the market exuberance of the summer. There are still many things on which to keep our eyes trained; unfortunately, not many of these look to offer much upside from current levels.

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