- Consumer Sentiment in U.S. Unexpectedly Drops as Outlook Sours
Consumer confidence unexpectedly fell to a one-year low in October as Americans soured on the outlook for the economy amid a contentious presidential election campaign.
The University of Michigan preliminary index of sentiment declined to 87.9 from 91.2 in September, according to a report Friday. That was weaker than the lowest estimate in a survey of economists. Long-term inflation expectations declined to a record low.
A sustained acceleration in worker pay has remained elusive even as companies keep adding jobs at a solid pace, and political uncertainty may be restraining confidence. At the same time, still-cheap fuel costs and improving employment prospects will help underpin consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy.
“It is likely that the uncertainty surrounding the presidential election had a negative impact, especially on low-income consumers, and without that added uncertainty, the confidence measures may not have weakened,” Richard Curtin, director of the University of Michigan consumer survey, said in a statement.
Even so, the margin of consumers expecting Democrat Hillary Clinton to win the election widened in October to a 46 percentage-point gap, from 34 points in September.
The measure of expectations six months from now decreased to 76.6, the lowest since September 2014, from 82.7. A 37 percent share of respondents expected good times in the economy in the year ahead, the smallest proportion since August 2014, and the outlook for the next five years also declined, according to the report.
A separate report from the Commerce Department earlier on Friday showed retail sales climbed in September by the most in three months, indicating American shoppers began to spend freely again after shying away from merchants earlier in the quarter.
Consumer confidence estimates ranged from 89.3 to 94.5, with a median projection of 91.8.
The sentiment report’s current conditions index, which takes stock of Americans’ view of their personal finances, rose to 105.5, from the prior month’s 104.2.
Curtin attributed the declines in the confidence and expectations indexes to weakness among households with incomes below $75,000.
Consumers continued to project relatively slow price gains. The inflation rate in the next year was seen at 2.4 percent, the same as in the prior month’s survey. Over the next five to 10 years, they expect a record-low 2.4 percent rate of inflation, compared with 2.6 percent in the previous month, according to the survey.
Gold Prices Rise as Soft Dollar Supports Safe-haven Appeal
Gold prices firmed on Monday, propped up by a subdued dollar and slight retreat in the U.S. Treasury yields, with investors gearing up for a week of speeches from U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers for cues on the central bank’s rate hike path.
Spot gold was up 0.5% at $1,759.06 per ounce, as of 0400 GMT, while U.S. gold futures were up 0.4% at $1,759.00.
While the dollar index softened, the benchmark 10-year Treasury yields eased after hitting their highest since early-July. A weaker dollar offered support to gold prices, making bullion cheaper for holders of other currencies.
“Gold is still looking slightly precarious where it is right now, and it’s probably bouncing off key technical level around $1,750,” IG Market analyst Kyle Rodda said.
“Gold remains an yield story and that yield story is very much tied back to the tapering story.”
A slew of Fed officials are due to speak this week including Chairman Jerome Powell, who will testify this week before Congress on the central bank’s policy response to the pandemic.
“There’ll be a lot of questions being put to Fed speakers about what the dot plots implied last week and weather there is higher risk of heightened inflation going forward and that rate hikes could be coming in the first half of 2022,” Rodda added.
A pair of Federal Reserve policymakers said on Friday they felt the U.S. economy is already in good enough shape for the central bank to begin to withdraw support for the economy.
Gold is often considered a hedge against higher inflation, but a Fed rate hike would increase the opportunity cost of holding gold, which pays no interest.
Investors also kept a close watch on developments in debt-laden property giant China Evergrande saga as the firm missed a payment on offshore bonds last week, with further payment due this week.
Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, increased 0.1% to 993.52 tonnes on Friday from 992.65 tonnes in the prior session.
Silver rose 0.9% to $22.61 per ounce.
Platinum climbed 1.3% to $994.91, while palladium gained 0.7% to $1,985.32.
Brent Crude Oil Near $80 Per Barrel Amid Supply Constraints
Oil prices rose for a fifth straight day on Monday with Brent heading for $80 amid supply concerns as parts of the world sees demand pick up with the easing of pandemic conditions.
Brent crude was up $1.14 or 1.5% at $79.23 a barrel by 0208 GMT, having risen a third consecutive week through Friday. U.S. Oil added $1.11 or 1.5% to $75.09, its highest since July, after rising for a fifth straight week last week.
“Supply tightness continues to draw on inventories across all regions,” ANZ Research said in a note.
Rising gas prices as also helping drive oil higher as the liquid becomes relatively cheaper for power generation, ANZ analysts said in the note.
Caught short by the demand rebound, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, known as OPEC+, have had difficulty raising output as under-investment or maintenance delays persist from the pandemic.
China’s first public sale of state oil reserves has barely acted to cap gains as PetroChina and Hengli Petrochemical bought four cargoes totalling about 4.43 million barrels.
India’s oil imports hit a three-month peak in August, rebounding from nearly one-year lows reached in July, as refiners in the second-biggest importer of crude stocked up in anticipation of higher demand.
Oil Holds Near Highest Since 2018 With Global Markets Tightening
Oil held steady near the highest close since 2018, with the global energy crunch set to increase demand for crude as stockpiles fall from the U.S. to China.
Futures in London headed for a third weekly gain. Global onshore crude stocks sank by almost 21 million barrels last week, led by China, according to data analytics firm Kayrros, while U.S. inventories are near a three-year low. The surge in natural gas prices is expected to force some consumers to switch to oil, tightening the market further ahead of the northern hemisphere winter.
China on Friday sold oil to Hengli Petrochemical Co. and a unit of PetroChina Co. in the first auction of crude from its strategic reserves said traders with the knowledge of the matter. Grades sold included Oman, Upper Zakum and Forties.
Oil has rallied recently after a period of Covid-induced demand uncertainty, with some of the world’s largest traders and banks predicting prices may climb further amid the energy crisis. Global crude consumption could rise by an additional 370,000 barrels a day if natural gas costs stay high, according to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
“Underpinning the latest bout of price strength is a tightening supply backdrop,” said Stephen Brennock, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates Ltd.
Various underlying oil market gauges are also pointing to a strengthening market. The key spread between Brent futures for December and a year later is near $7, the strongest since 2019. That’s a sign traders are positive about the market outlook.
At the same time, the premium options traders are paying for bearish put options is the smallest since January 2020, another indication that traders are less concerned about a pullback in prices.
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