Markets Decide That Economic Data Today Show A Glass Half Full

The U.S. stock market decided that today’s economic reports showed a glass half full. Interpretations pointing in the other direction, however, were easy enough to make so the end result wasn’t so much a wave of optimism lifting markets strongly higher as a sigh of relief. For the day the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index was up 0.17% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was ahead 0.29%. The technology heavy NASDAQ Composite index finished dead even for the session. Gold continued its recent weakness, dropping another $4.20 an ounce, or 0.32%–to $1313.60 an ounce. West Texas Intermediate gained 1.8% to $62.29 a barrel. International benchmark Brent gained 1.6% to $66.16 a barrel. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose 2 basis points to 2.84%.

On the glass is half full side: Industrial production climbed 1.1% in February after a revised decline of 0.3% in January. Economists had expected a gain in February of 0.3%. Consumer sentiment for March in the University of Michigan survey jumped to 102.0 from 99.7 in February. Economists had expected a reading of 99.5. The March reading is the highest level for the sentiment index since April 2004.

On the glass is half empty side: Housing starts ran at an annual rate of 1.236 million units in February. That was below the 1.283 million unit annual rate projected by economists surveyed by Briefing.com and down from a revised 1.329 million units in January. Housing permits, a leading indictor of housing starts since permits turn into new building, fell to an annual rate of 1.298 million from a revised 1.377 million in January. In addition, the Michigan Sentiment survey showed that expectations of near-term inflation increased to the highest level in three years with consumers expecting inflation to climb to 2.9% in 2019 from less than 2% currently. (The Federal Reserve’s inflation target is 2%.)