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Have the Markets Stagnated?

Think all the way back to a week or so ago — the markets were enjoying multi-week gains and all-time highs. It was a late term bull market that looked as if it were just picking up new steam, as there appeared to be nothing in Q2 earnings season or in overall economic metrics that were in a position to stifle such historic positives.

Seems like a long time ago now, doesn’t it?

We are seeing futures up in the initial pre-market session of this new week, but that’s not to say the mood is the same as it was last Monday. Plenty of question marks float around the market today — in the form of economic data and other actionable information to be released this week, as well as threat of nuclear conflict with North Korea and even the leadership of the identity of the United States itself.

For instance, just this morning, Merck MRK CEO Ken Frazier has announced he is stepping down from President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council in reaction to the president’s statement regarding the deadly tragedy in Charlottesville, VA over the weekend. That the standoff between white nationalists ands those protesting white nationalists ended in the tragic death of one protestor and 19 others injured was the result of “hatred, bigotry and violence — on many sides” provoked Frazier to say the U.S. must “honor our fundamental values” and “reject hatred.” “I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism,” Frazier’s statement read.

That this statement resulted in a new Twitter attack on Frazier and his company is not really a surprise, as it is fairly true to form for President Trump. But rather than get into a deeper discussion about this here, suffice it to say this is yet another arena where we see thorns and barbs that either weren’t there or weren’t visible this time last week.

July Retail Sales come out tomorrow, with expectations of -0.2% growth looking to be the third straight month of down retail sales. Consumer confidence is apparently up, but if consumers aren’t spending, where exactly is the disconnect here? Another question mark, which may be partially answered by the earnings reports due Wednesday from Walmart WMT and Target TGT.

Also on Wednesday, we look for answers from minutes released from the most recent Federal Reserve meeting, and whether there is an advancement of language articulating the winding down of $4.5 trillion on the Fed’s balance sheet, even as chances of a new rate hike in September are close to nil at this point. Will working off this massive debt be postponed or stalled in any way now that inflation metrics have yet to find their way into the economy as expected by this time? Questions, questions everywhere.


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