Assumptions of a global slowdown sent stocks further down in January. The blue chips and the small caps both fell more than 3% on the month. Gold and the dollar got off to a hot start for 2015, as did many foreign stock markets; energy and crop futures mostly extended losing streaks. Housing indicators were mixed, and the latest data on consumer spending, inflation and retail sales raised some questions. The big economic news came from overseas as the European Central Bank announced a long-awaited easing effort; stateside, the Federal Reserve seemed to hint that it was still considering raising interest rates this year.1
Key index performance is shown in the table below.
If institutional investors had felt as confident as American households last month, stocks might have performed better. January saw the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index reach an impressive 102.9, and the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index ended the month at 98.1.2
In late January, the European Central Bank unveiled a money-purchase program of proportions to rival QE3. The ECB announced it would buy €60 billion in bonds each month through September 2016. By weakening the euro, the central bank is aiding the economies of most eurozone countries, which are pegged heavily to exports.7
Mortgages got even cheaper last month: the interest rate for the 30-year fixed averaged only 3.66% according to the January 29 Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey. That was down from 3.87% on December 31. Between the two surveys, average interest rates on the key mortgage types declined as follows: 15-year FRM, 3.15% to 2.98%; 5/1-year ARM, 3.01% to 2.86%; 1-year ARM, 2.40% to 2.38%.13,14
This article adapted with permission from MarketingLibrary.net.