Just two weeks ago, we spoke about the “trifecta” of economic events spanning the end of October and early November. Or perhaps we should have labeled it the “triple witching hour” since that time period also encompassed Halloween. Let’s now pull out our scorecards and see how we did over this period.
First, we had the release of the data on economic growth for the third quarter. Even though this number will be revised twice, it is very important because of the release right before the Federal Reserve met and considered tapering their purchases of bonds and mortgages. The preliminary estimated growth rate of 2.0% was seen as a surprise on the downside, as it was a sharper slowdown than expected. Just a few days later the Fed met and announced that they were beginning their tapering of mortgage and bond purchases. Was the Fed influenced by this number? Their statement indicating that they would continue to be patient regarding when they will raise their benchmark overnight interest rate might have been evidence of this concern.
Finally, on Friday we had the employment report for October. This release was too late to influence the Fed, but certainly was very important after two previous mixed, but generally disappointing, reports. The gain of 531,000 jobs and unemployment rate of 4.6% was seen as major positives. In addition, the previous two months of data was revised upward by 235,000 jobs, making the report even stronger. In all, a lot of data for the markets to react to. Generally, we saw a lot of volatility in the stock and bond markets during the past few weeks – with stocks hitting record levels more recently. Will the markets calm down now? Only time will tell.