How slowing wage growth translates into spending a concern
Investors will surface from their long weekend to greet a data packed week as stocks push against record levels in a time of fundamental strength but political uncertainty.
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Stocks on Friday finished relatively flat, but higher for the week (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/record-run-for-us-stocks-hangs-in-the-balance-ahead-of-holiday-weekend-2017-05-26), with the both the S&P 500 index and the Nasdaq Composite Index eking out records and the Dow Jones Industrial losing fractionally lower. Equities spent the week trending cautiously higher, recovering from a May 17 plunge (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stock-futures-slide-as-concerns-over-trump-grow-2017-05-17) on reports that President Donald Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to shut down an investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.
The recovery in stocks also coincided with Trump's first trip as president abroad, causing some to speculate that investor focus on the Russia probes may return when the president returns to U.S. soil. Meanwhile, a wealth of economic data will keep investors busy during the holiday foreshortened week.
Read: Which markets are closed for Memorial Day? (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/when-do-markets-close-for-memorial-day-2017-05-24)
The two most important data points on deck will be May consumer-confidence figures on Tuesday and the May jobs report on Friday, said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial Network, in an interview.
Economists polled by MarketWatch expect a consumer-confidence reading of 118.6, down from last month's 120.3, and May to see to 185,000 jobs created. Of primary importance in the job figures, however, will be wage growth and productivity.
"The real number is wage growth, it's not been growing as fast as it should," McMillan said.
While 211,000 new jobs were added to the economy in April, wage growth for the month slowed (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-creates-211000-jobs-in-april-as-hiring-rebounds-2017-03-10)to an increase of 0.3%, well below the 2.5% average over the past 12 months.
"We need to see a year-over-year recovery in those numbers," McMillan said. "If not, then there's a concern of the consumer being able to spend. Right now, we're starting to see business investment bounce back in a big way but are consumers going to continue to step up?"
On Friday, consumer sentiment for May (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/consumer-sentiment-edges-up-in-may-as-americans-remain-politically-polarized-2017-05-26) rose fractionally as consumers have become more divided on their expectations of economic growth based on their politics.
Rounding out the week as far as economic data, April consumer spending and inflation data comes out on Tuesday, May's Chicago PMI and the Fed's Beige Book for April come out on Wednesday, while May's ISM manufacturing index and car sales are released out Thursday
Much of the sideways action in stocks over the past year can be attributed to improving fundamentals making up for the sagging confidence in Trump's sway in pushing through his pro-business policies amid the distraction of controversies surrounding probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Most recently, media outlets reported that Jared Kushner (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/jared-kushner-will-cooperate-in-probe-over-russian-interference-in-us-election-2017-05-26), Trump's son-in-law and one of his senior advisers, has been identified as a person of interest in federal probes into Russian meddling.
"You had a very large hope bump that Republicans could enact business favorable policies, but that hope has receded," McMillan said, adding that fundamental strength in stocks has largely shielded them from a selloff triggered by political rancor.
That may be true for U.S. politics, but abroad it's a slightly different story. One potential dark cloud McMillan see over markets are the increasingly public negotiations of the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union.
"The fact that negotiations are getting public, that both sides are trying to apply public pressure, increases the chance of a negotiating tactic going wrong," McMillan said.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 27, 2017 10:10 ET (14:10 GMT)