After four straight weeks of declines, the U.S. stock market finally rose last week. But that late-month surge wasn't enough to push the S&P 500 higher during August, a wild month that saw this benchmark index fall 1.8%.
Trade has been the primary issue whipsawing stock prices lately — the market has jumped higher or lower amid signs of progress and setbacks in ongoing talks between the U.S. and China. Over the weekend, the U.S. imposed 15% tariffs on a variety of Chinese goods, while China imposed new charges on U.S. products. The S&P 500 fell again early Tuesday.
But professional investors have other concerns, namely the probability that another recession is on the horizon. Yields on Treasury bonds have slumped, signaling that traders are worried about the pace of U.S. economic growth ahead. The yield on the 30-year Treasury bond tumbled to a new all-time low in August, and longer-term rates have fallen below shorter-term rates — a dynamic known as an inverted yield curve, which has historically been an indicator of recessions.
The status of trade talks is still likely to command the attention of professional investors, but this week they'll also get some key economic reports on hiring and manufacturing activity. Here's what to watch for, and how the news may affect your wallet.
What's happening: The monthly jobs report is scheduled for release on Friday. Ahead of that report, economists are projecting that employers added slightly fewer jobs in August than in July. But they also forecast that the unemployment rate ticked down slightly last month. That jobless rate is closely watched as a possible recession indicator — especially when there's a rapid spike — although it's not flashing a warning sign at this time.
Why it matters: Employment data is among the most tracked of the various economic reports released each month, with both traders and the Federal Reserve paying attention. Any big surprises in hiring could influence whether policymakers decide to cut interest rates at their meeting later this month — as Wall Street broadly expects they will.
What it means for you: Hiring gains and wage growth have been strong in recent months, which shows the U.S. economy is heading toward full employment, meaning almost everyone willing and able to work has a job. This could be good news for workers — economists expect that full employment could result in wage increases. If you're looking for work, the jobs report can also be informative because it shows which industries are hiring the most.
The monthly labor report can drive some short-term daily swings in the stock market, too, especially if there's a bigger-than-expected gain or loss in hiring compared to the prior month.
What's happening: It's a busy week for manufacturing reports. On Tuesday, expect two different surveys of managers about activity in this industry, in addition to a report on construction spending in July. Economists forecast slight improvements for all three reports. Meanwhile, they project that July saw more robust gains in factory orders and no change in durable goods orders, which suggests demand is steady in spite of tariff increases. Both of those reports will come in on Thursday.
Why it matters: The manufacturing industry today is much smaller than it was decades ago, and therefore a smaller engine of the U.S. economy. Even so, investors still track the health of this industry, as well as whether higher tariffs imposed by both the U.S. and China are having an impact on imports and exports.
What it means for you: While your livelihood may not be directly connected with the manufacturing industry, changes in this sector can still affect you — especially if activity slows. What's more, when investors get concerned about a slowdown in any one particular segment of the economy, like manufacturing, that can drag down the broader stock market.
It's a short week for the stock market, but trade activity is likely to pick up again this month now that much of Wall Street has wrapped up summer vacations. But September historically is the weakest month of the year for the S&P 500, according to figures from Yardeni Research.
If stock prices fall this month, or really at any time, that can be a good opportunity for long-term investors. No matter what happens in any given week, it's important to keep perspective and remain consistent with your investment strategy.
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