Wall Street and Washington: One week ago the markets hit a record high as the Federal Reserve decided to keep pumping $85 billion a month of stimulus into the economy. The good vibes didn’t last long though, since hitting that record high last Wednesday the Dow has now dropped six of the last seven sessions. The fear on the street is mostly related to the dysfunction in D.C. Investors are concerned that there will be a government shutdown and worse yet that for the first time ever the United States may possibly hit the debt ceiling and default on its debt. Economist Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics testified on the hill last week about the serious impact of a default: “Any delay in raising the debt ceiling would have dire economic consequences. Consumer, business and investor confidence would be hit hard, putting stock, bond and other financial markets into turmoil.” Get ready for a wild ride in “Stock-tober”
Wall Street LIKES Facebook: Last week was a record-breaker for Facebook. Shares of the social network roared past $50 for the first time ever. And since reporting blockbuster earnings in late July the stock has doubled. Makes you understand why the folks at Twitter are racing to get their IPO to the market soon. The ETF that tracks the social media group (SOCL) is up 54 percent this year. New Internet boom or bubble?
The Big Jobs Report: Beyond the drama on Capitol Hill, the other big event for Wall Street to watch next week coming out of Washington will be the jobs report Friday at 8:30 a.m. Job growth since April of this year has slowed down. From January through April the economy was creating 205,000 jobs every month. Since April that number has fallen to just 155,000. The consensus expectation is that 180,000 jobs were created last month. The market and lawmakers will be paying close attention for sure. It’s also worth noting that if there is a government shutdown the jobs report data could be delayed, as happened in 1995.
Gas Prices Keep Falling: Some good news for a change at the pump as gas prices have been falling for the better part of a month and analysts expect further declines. According to GasBuddy.com the national average for a gallon a gas is the lowest it’s been since February. South Carolina has the cheapest gas in the country at just $3.12 a gallon while Hawaii has the most expensive at $4.30.
Monthly Auto Sales: Next to the recovery in housing, the other big highlight for the economy in 2013 has been the boom in auto sales. The latest read on sales comes Tuesday when we get all the automakers reporting sales for September. J.D Powers expects sales for the month will have slowed slightly from the sprint in recent months. The expectation is that sales will come in about 2 percent better than last September.
Big Problems at JC Penney: Last week shares of the troubled retailer fell 30 percent. The company announced Friday that is wants to sell 84 million new shares to the market and it will use the money for general corporate purposes. J.C. Penney has struggled with sales and it is burning through cash faster than expected. The trouble started with the former CEO’s failed effort to make the company a more up-market department store. Sales fell 25 percent last year and have continued to fall this year. J.C. Penney is now a $9 stock; in early 2012 it was trading at over $40 a share.