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Registered Investment Adviser Caleb Lawrence 

After opening higher, the major averages struggled into the final hour with small losses on little real news. Import prices advanced .7% in November with almost all of the gain coming from petroleum prices. On a year ago, basis import prices increased 3.1%, more than half of that coming from energy. Export prices advanced .5% for the month and 3.1% from a year ago. This marks the 3rd meaningful price gain in the last 4-months for the series.

Retail sales handily beat expectations in November with a .8% advance. A 3rd consecutive solid gain, on strength in Gasoline, online, electronics and appliance sales. On a year ago basis sales increased 5.8%. Of note the anemic 2.3% wage growth over the same period means consumers are tapping savings and credit cards to drive sales.

One of the real conundrums in the last few years is the almost complete lack of volatility as measured by the VIX or Volatility Index, as it appears to have left the building to join Elvis as it taps lows last seen in 2007 just before the last crisis. As per a piece in the Wall Street Journal, that also looked at the Ambiguity Index and noted that it recently hit an all-time record high of 2.42, exceeding the 2.41 recorded in October of 2008 at the height of the previous crisis. Supposedly this index measures the unknown, unknowns, but you have to wonder, just like all the other data in the last 2-years, does it matter? Because nothing seems to anymore.

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