Gas prices edge to new high; While WH admits inattention to stock prices, markets edge lower
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Former Obama Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought predicts the U.S. is headed towards a recession under President Biden.
U.S. stocks are mixed on Thursday as concerns over Federal Reserve interest rate hikes and high inflation continue to worry investors.
The S&P 500 briefly turned positive as it clawed its way back from earlier losses in an attempt to avoid entering a bear market. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down more than 200 points, or 0.7%, while the Nasdaq Composite has climbed 0.6%
Existing-home sales fell for the third straight month in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.61 million. Sales were down 2.4% from the prior month and 5.9% from one year ago.
The median existing-home sales price increased at a slower year-over-year pace of 14.8% to $391,200.
"Higher home prices and sharply higher mortgage rates have reduced buyer activity," National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun said. "It looks like more declines are imminent in the upcoming months, and we'll likely return to the pre-pandemic home sales activity after the remarkable surge over the past two years."
With slower demand, the inventory of unsold existing homes climbed to 1.03 million by the end of April, or the equivalent of 2.2 months of the monthly sales pace.
The Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing index fell to a reading of 2.6 in May from 17.6 the previous month, marking the lowest level of activity in two years. Economists polled by Refinitiv were expecting a reading of 16.
Meanwhile, the index for new orders rose 4 points to a reading of 22.1, and the current shipments index climbed 16 points to 35.3, its highest reading since October 2020.
U.S. weekly jobless claims unexpectedly rose to 218,000 for the week ending May 14, the highest level since January. Meanwhile, the number of people continuing to receive unemployment benefits fell to 1.317 million during the week ending May 7, its lowest level since December 1969.
Economists polled by Refinitiv had expected initial jobless claims of 200,000 and continuing claims of 1.32 million.
As European countries continue to push for bans and blockades on Russian energy, the Chinese Communist Party has seized the opportunity to approach the nation's government for a good deal on the oil, according to a report from Bloomberg.
China, who has remained largely agnostic towards Russia since the beginning of their invasion into Ukraine, is also looking to save a bundle on the discount crude oil. Chinese refineries have bought a steady stream of crude oil and some expect the nation to store up to a billion barrels, according to Bloomberg.
The U.S. has vowed to stop the importation of Russian oil due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The United Kingdom, Germany, and other European powers have made similar attempts to curb Russian energy sales. Meanwhile, less affluent European countries including Italy have dragged their feet on such policies, increasing their purchases to take advantage of the plummeting prices.
Kohl's Corp. cut its full-year earnings forecast on Thursday, becoming the latest U.S. retailer to signal a bigger-than-expected hit from surging transportation and labor costs.
The company, which is considering selling itself, said it expects fiscal 2022 per share adjusted earnings of $6.45 to $6.85, compared with its previous forecast of $7.00 to $7.50.
Average gas prices in the U.S. reached a new record high Thursday, according to AAA's gas price calculator, after Republican senators slammed the Biden administration for a "de facto ban on new drilling."
The national average cost of a regular gallon of gasoline hit $4.589 early Thursday morning. This price topped Wednesday's previous record of $4.567, which had beat Tuesday's record of $4.523, which in turn had beat Monday's record of $4.470.
The price comes as the European Union edges toward oil sanctions on Russia amid the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine. It also comes amid record-high inflation, with the consumer price index reaching 8.3% in April, hovering near March's 40-year high. The price hike also follows the Department of the Interior's cancellation of an oil and gas lease sale for over 1 million acres in Alaska's Cook Inlet last week, which DOI attributed to a "lack of industry interest." DOI also canceled two Gulf of Mexico leases.
The White House has blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the record-high gas prices in the U.S., even coining the surge as the "#PutinPriceHike" and vowing that President Biden will do everything he can to shield Americans from "pain at the pump."
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday that the stock market, which continues to witness erratic trading amid soaring inflation, is not something the White House tends to "keep an eye on every day."
Asked about the stock market's recent performance amid rising interest rates from the Federal Reserve and the potential for "gains that have defined" President Biden's presidency being erased, Jean-Pierre said "nothing has changed" on how the White House views the stock market's behavior.
"Nothing has changed on how we see the stock market," Jean-Pierre told reporters. "That's not something we keep an eye on every day, so I'm not gonna comment on that from here."
Earlier this year, former White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden "does not look at the stock market as a means by which to judge the economy."
Cryptocurrency prices were lower early Thursday morning following an 1,100-point drop in the Dow and losses in both the S&P and Nasdaq.
Bitcoin was trading just under $29,000 at 5:10 a.m. It was up $240 (+0.82%). For the week, Bitcoin was lower by 0.70%. For the month, it was trading almost 29.5% lower.
Ethereum was trading at just under $1,930 per coin. It was up $14.42 (0.75%). For the week, it was trading lower by almost 8%. For the month, it was trading almost 37.5% lower.
Dogecoin was trading at just under per 8.3 cents per coin. It was up $0.0003 (0.37%). For the week, it was trading lower by almost 1.67%. For the month, it was trading more than 40% lower.
U.S. stocks were moving lower early Thursday, one day after the Dow sank more than 1,100 points, or 3.6%, and the S&P 500 suffered its biggest drop since June 2020, shedding 4%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 4.7%.
The benchmark index is now down more than 18% from the record high it reached at the beginning of the year. That's shy of the 20% decline that's considered a bear market.
More retail earnings are on the way Thursday morning, with BJ’s Wholesale Club, Kohl’s and Children’s Place set to report ahead of the opening bell. In the afternoon Ross Stores and V.F. Corp., as well as chip equipment maker Applied Materials are scheduled to report.
Currently, 471 companies in the S&P 500, or nearly 95% of the benchmark index, have posted January through March results, with the numbers coming in well ahead of forecasts.
The Federal Reserve is trying to temper the impact from the highest inflation in four decades by raising interest rates. Many other central banks are on a similar track.
Meanwhile, the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo lost 1.9% to 26,395.81 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong dropped 2.5% to 20,119.96. In South Korea, the Kospi shed 1.3% to 2,592.32, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gave up 1.7% to 7,062.90.
The Shanghai Composite index edged 0.1% lower to 3.083.20.Bond yields fell as investors shifted money into lower-risk investments. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.88% from 2.97% late Tuesday.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Homebuyer demand for mortgages tumbled last week as the average interest rate on the most popular U.S. home loan hovered near a 13-year high, a sign the red-hot housing market may be starting to cool off, according to new data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Mortgage applications to purchase a home dropped 12% on a weekly basis and are down 15% compared with the same week one year ago. It marked the first time in three weeks that monthly mortgage demand fell.
Although mortgage rates have receded slightly from the record high notched last week, the average rate on the 30-year loan is still around 5.378%. By comparison, just one year ago, the 30-year rate stood at 3.00%. Since the start of the year, rates have jumped 2% – the fastest pace of growth since May 1994.
"Purchase applications fell 12% last week, as prospective homebuyers have been put off by the higher rates and worsening affordability conditions," said Joel Kan, an associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting at MBA. "General uncertainty about the near-term economic outlook, as well as recent stock market volatility, may be causing some households to delay their home search."
With mortgage rates rising, refinance activity is also plunging: Applications to refinance a home loan dropped another 10% week to week. In all, refinance demand is down 76% compared to one year ago.
Oil prices rose on Thursday, recovering from early losses, on hopes that planned easing of restrictions in Shanghai could improve fuel demand while lingering concerns over tight global supplies outweighed fears of slower economic growth.
Brent crude futures for July were up $1.32, or 1.2%, at $110.43 a barrel at 0700 GMT, after falling by more than $1 earlier in the session.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures for June rose 62 cents, or 0.6%, to $110.21 a barrel, recovering from an early loss of more than $2. WTI for July was up $1.33, or 1.2%, at $108.26 a barrel.
Front-month prices for both benchmarks fell about 2.5% on Wednesday.
"A slump in Wall Street soured sentiment in early trade as it underlined concerns over weakening consumption and fuel demand," said Satoru Yoshida, a commodity analyst with Rakuten Securities.
"Still, oil markets are keeping a bullish trend as a pending import ban by the European Union on Russian crude is expected to further tighten global supply," Yoshida said.
The European Union this month proposed a new package of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. This would include a total ban on oil imports in six months' time, but the measures have not yet been adopted, with Hungary being among the most vocal critics of the plan.
On Wednesday, the European Commission unveiled a 210 billion euro ($220 billion) plan for Europe to end its reliance on Russian fossil fuels by 2027, and to use the pivot away from Moscow to quicken its transition to green energy.
Also, U.S. crude inventories fell last week, an unexpected drawdown, as refiners ramped up output in response to tight product inventories and near-record exports that have forced U.S. diesel and gasoline prices to record levels.
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