November Monthly Market Commentary

Will 2013 go in the books as the best year for U.S. stocks since the mid-1990s? It may. At the end of November, the S&P 500 was already up 29.12% YTD. November brought more signals of an improving economy, even with a hot housing market cooling off by degrees. The eurozone economy still looked tenuous; China’s economy showed signs of resilience. Prices of gold, oil and other key commodities dropped. Some foreign stock markets outperformed ours, others lost ground. The Federal Reserve made no moves, but its October policy minutes hinted at trimming its monthly bond buying.1

While the S&P 500 is up as much as it is, a diversified 60/40 stock/bond portfolio was up a more modest but still very rewarding 11.42%. Additional index performance shown below.

Early in the month, the Labor Department stated that 204,000 new jobs were created in October, better than the average monthly gain of 190,000 seen during the past year. The jobless rate did tick up to 7.3%; at least that was 2.9% lower than the recessionary peak seen in October 2009. Manufacturing and service sectors appeared healthy judging by the Institute for Supply Management’s purchasing manager indices. ISM’s factory sector gauge reached 56.4 in October (and 57.3 in November, marking a sixth straight monthly advance). Its service-sector PMI rose a full point in October to 55.4.2,3,4

November also brought the federal government’s first estimate of Q3 GDP – a surprisingly good 2.8%. (Analysts polled by MarketWatch had expected a 2.3% reading.) As for the prime factor in GDP, a delayed Commerce Department report on consumer spending noted only a 0.2% gain in September, even as personal incomes increased 0.5%. Retail sales rose a healthy 0.4% in October, however.5,6,7
Respected consumer confidence polls reached different conclusions last month. The Conference Board’s index fell two whole points to 70.4, far underneath the 74.0 reading forecast by The University of Michigan’s final consumer sentiment index for the month offered better news, rising to 75.1.8

Annualized inflation was amazingly tame – just 1.0% as of October, thanks to a 0.1% decline in the Consumer Price Index. As for wholesale prices, October’s Producer Price Index showed a 0.2% retreat, and that meant just a 0.3% gain over the past 12 months – the weakest annual wholesale inflation since 2009. Durable goods orders slipped 2.0% in October.7,8,9

As for the Fed, Janet Yellen reassured Wall Street at mid-month with dovish comments at her Senate confirmation hearing, noting that “supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy.” Days later, however, the October Fed policy minutes noted that if indicators affirmed the FOMC’s “outlook for ongoing improvement” in the labor market, it would “warrant trimming the pace of [bond] purchases in coming months.”10,11

Lastly, the White House dealt with the backlash over the launch of Less than 27,000 people had enrolled in the federal online insurance exchange in October due to glitches. A November repair effort left the site running much more smoothly at the start of December; CNN estimates that at the end of last month, total enrollment at and the 14 state-run exchanges surpassed 200,000, up from 106,000 at the end of October. Individuals have until December 23 to shop for health coverage effective on January 1.1

The EU jobless rate descended 0.1% in October to 12.1%. That was the good news. Annualized eurozone inflation hit 0.9% last month, rising from 0.7% for October (a 4-year low); retail sales slipped 0.8% in Germany in October following a 0.2% retreat for September. As for eurozone manufacturing, Markit’s PMI for the region reached 51.3 in October and a 2-year peak of 51.6 in November. Great Britain’s factory PMI hit 58.4 in November, the highest reading since February 2011. Not all was well: manufacturing PMIs showed contraction in Spain (48.6) and France (48.4).13,14

Indian manufacturing expanded for the first month since July in November, with HSBC’s PMI reaching 51.3. China’s official PMI was flat last month at 51.4 while HSBC’s PMI declined 0.1 points to 50.8. HSBC PMI readings for South Korea (50.4), Taiwan (53.4) and Vietnam (50.3) all showed growth in November. Japan’s official data stream showed yearly consumer inflation at just 0.6% and just an 0.9% annualized rise in consumer spending.13,15

Performances were quite varied last month. Notable gains: DAX, 4.11%; Nikkei 225, 9.31%; Shanghai Composite, 3.68%; Hang Seng, 2.91%; IPC All-Share, 3.56%; MERVAL, 10.72%; TSX Composite, 0.26%; Global Dow, 1.65%; Europe Dow, 0.73%; DJ STOXX 600, 0.87%; MSCI World Index, 1.59%. These benchmarks racked up November losses: MSCI Emerging Markets Index, 1.56%; Asia Dow, 0.21%; Sensex, 1.76%; ASX, 1.94%; PSE Composite, 5.72%; Jakarta Composite, 5.64%; TAIEX, 0.51%; Bovespa, 3.27%; FTSE 100, 1.20%; CAC 40, 0.11%; RTSI, 5.23%.1,16

Oil ended November at $92.72 as prices fell 3.57% on the month. Other energy futures posted monthly gains: heating oil, 2.70%; unleaded gasoline, 1.59%; natural gas, 10.69%. Gold sunk 5.46%, silver dropped 9.21%, platinum retreated 5.39% and copper lost 1.94%. COMEX gold settled at a mere $1,250.60 on November 29. As for crops, coffee rose 4.04%, cocoa 4.76%, cotton 2.81% and soybeans 4.39%; sugar lost 5.77% in November, corn 2.92% and wheat 1.80%. The U.S. Dollar Index ended November at 80.68 for a 0.60% monthly gain.17,18

The National Association of Realtors announced that October had seen a 3.2% retreat in the pace of existing home sales – and a 0.6% slip in pending home sales. Countering the news of these declines, September’s S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index had house prices up 3.2% in Q3 and up 13.3% YTD. October also saw a 6.2% rise in building permits; the annualized gain was 13.9%. (As a consequence of the federal shutdown, new home sales figures for September and October won’t be announced by the Census Bureau until December 4, and the reports on September and October housing starts won’t arrive until December 18.)7,19,20
Between Halloween and November 27, Freddie Mac charted the following mortgage rate movements: 30-year FRMs, 4.10% to 4.29%; 15-year FRMs, 3.20% to 3.30%; 5/1-year ARMs, 2.96% to 2.94%; 1-year ARMs, 2.64% to 2.60%.21
Record closes seemed commonplace last month as the major U.S. indices pushed toward these November 29 finishes: DJIA, 16,086.41; NASDAQ, 4,059.89; S&P 500, 1,805.81. The Russell 2000 gained 3.88% last month to end November at 1,142.89; the CBOE VIX declined 0.36% on the month to settle at 13.70 on November 29.1

The S&P 500 has advanced in each of the past five Decembers, and with the bulls seemingly entrenched on Wall Street, there is little reason to think it might not add to its YTD gain this month. In recent years, December has also been a terrific month for the small caps: across 2008-12, the Russell 2000’s average December gain was 5.01%. Then again, Wall Street is a volatile place – and recent FOMC minutes do raise the possibility of the central bank tapering in December and taking some of the air out of any Santa Claus rally. It could be that stocks advance nicely prior to the December 18 Fed policy announcement and limp through the rest of the month. If the latest bicameral budget reduction committee can’t agree on a plan by the middle of December, investors will have more to fret about. Confidence is still prevalent on Wall Street, however, and the year may end nicely indeed for equities.24

UPCOMING ECONOMIC RELEASES: The data stream for the remainder of 2013 is as follows: September and October new home sales, a new Fed Beige Book and the November ISM service sector PMI (12/4), the second estimate of Q3 GDP out of Washington, the November Challenger job-cut report and October factory orders (12/5), the November employment report, October consumer spending figures and the University of Michigan’s initial December consumer sentiment index (12/6), October wholesale inventories (12/10), November retail sales and October business inventories (12/12), the November PPI (12/13), November industrial output (12/16), the November CPI and the December NAHB housing market index (12/17), the latest Fed policy announcement plus data on September, October and November housing starts and November building permits (12/18), the last estimate of Q3 GDP (12/20), the University of Michigan’s final December consumer sentiment index and Commerce Department figures on November consumer spending (12/23), November new home sales and durable goods orders and October’s FHFA housing price index (12/24), and November pending home sales (12/30)

Best Regards,

Kevin Kroskey, CFP®, MBA

This article adapted with permission from

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Future Posts at

Any future blog posts will be done at . Thank you, Kevin Kroskey, CFP, MBA