Following a quiet Columbus Day, investors set sail for new horizons, lifting stock markets and broad-based market averages to never-before-seen levels. Tuesday and Wednesday sessions lifted markets on the way to a full week gain of 11.21 for our Quad-City Times Key 15 to close at 2,256.69 (1). It was a third weekly record for our area business barometer.

Among the area stocks helping the average were Monsanto, which climbed $2.61to $122.35, and shares of Macerich Co., which rose $1.73 to close at $58.17 (1). Restraining the Key 15 was Wells Fargo, falling $1.87 to $53.69 (1).

Most insightful for the area economy may have been the latest on Wednesday from our Quad-City Area Realtor Association. Early 2017 saw healthy gains; lately, not so much. The association reported home sale closings down by 6.3 percent, from 529 last September to 493 in the latest month. The dollar volume of those transactions retreated, too, down from $82.9 million to $79.5 million, to a 4.1 percent decline.

This slowing trend is not unlike the national slowing of home sales. And there were no hurricanes or storms to inhibit activity here. But, realtors here and spokesmen for the National Association of Realtors agree that a shortage of listing in the most desired price categories is leaving buyers with fewer choices.

There was also a small retreat in the latest reading from the National Federation of Independent Business. Its small business optimism index pulled back from 105.3 in August to 103.0 in September. The association was quick to point out that the softening wasn’t the result of hurricane effects. In fact, it said, the sales outlook surveys and the hiring intentions surveys both reflected some softening.

Still, the federation’s chief economist, Bill Dunkelberg, in remarks released Tuesday, noted that “The index remains very high by historical standards,” referring to the multi-month surge following last November’s elections. And, indeed, as Dunkelberg indicates, this may only be some consolidation of readings near these highs.

Wednesday’s release of the minutes of the most recent Federal Reserve meeting reminded investors that the central bank spoke most favorably toward one more small rise in rates. This echoed the release from the Fed committee two weeks ago. And, it fed a continuing expectation of that 0.25 percent rise in the overnight “fed funds” rate before year end.

Quad-Citians should not be disengaged on the subject of homes sales, a serious indicator of area activity. Get ready to compare that recent report with the nationwide report coming out this Friday. Even before that, we’ll look on Wednesday at reported housing starts for another take on whether the reported shortages of listings can be alleviated by building.

Beyond those reports, quarterly profit reports from area companies will determine whether investors and stock prices set sail for further horizons.

James Victor is senior vice president-wealth management and financial adviser with Morgan Stanley, Davenport.

The Key 15 reflects stocks of local interest. It is not a product and cannot be purchased as one. Information contained herein has been obtained by the writer from sources believed to be reliable, but he does not guarantee its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. (1) Source: NYSE

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