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After opening the session significantly lower, the major equity indexes are making a painfully slow crawl to the upside. While it isn't likely that they'll regain all losses before the close, the upward crawl is somewhat encouraging for investors who were looking to buy on a dip. After some further reading into the minutes released yesterday for the most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, one could see that the Fed noted that it plans to end the bond-buying stimulus program in October, provided that the US economy continues to grow at its current pace. With the winter-related economic impacts behind us, the Fed sees no reason why the economy couldn't maintain steady growth moving forward. According to the account, the Fed also plans to add $35 billion to its holdings of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities in July, $25 billion in August and September, and a final $15 billion in October. Probably the most disturbing point was that no word was given on when or if interest rates will be raised this year. Despite this, the economy is continuing to show small signs of improvement evidenced by the economic releases today.
The initial jobless claims level fell to 304,000 for the week ending July 5th from an unrevised 315,000 for the week ending June 28th. Economists had expected the initial claims level to fall to 311,000 so this level is quite impressive. However, we noted that while the claims came in below the normal level, it is likely due to the Independence Day holiday (like it was with the Memorial Day week reading) and not a change in the long-term trend. On the other hand, the continuing claims level increased to 2.584 million for the week ending June 28th from a downwardly revised 2.574 million (from 2.579 million) for the week ending June 21st. The reading came in worse than consensus' expectation that the continuing claims level would fall to 2.567 million.
Additionally, the Census Bureau released its Wholesale Business Inventory and Sales Figures for the month of May. Inventories in the wholesale rose 0.5% in May, which is a balanced rise in line with a 0.7% gain in sales that leaves the inventory-to-sales ratio unchanged at a lean 1.18. The details of the report show that there were large inventory gains for lumber, metals, machinery, and drugs; all of which were matched by large gains in sales. Inventories of autos also rose sharply, but auto sales didn't quite increase by a comparable amount. However, the heavy wholesale inventory of autos may turn out to be a positive point given how well auto retail sales have been in the last few months.
Ultimately, inventory growth is expected to be a positive sign for second-quarter GDP estimates as businesses restock to keep up with demand. This wholesale data is likely the reason for equities inching higher in the afternoon.