U.S. – China trade deal signed; equities hit new highs

The Big Number
December’s seasonally adjusted annualized rate of U.S. housing starts.

What this means
U.S. housing starts were at their highest level in 13 years last month, according to a report from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development and Commerce Department. The positive report points to the housing industry’s continued recovery from the Great Recession.  Lower interest rates, a robust jobs market, and high levels of confidence for both buyers and home builders are underpinning demand.

Market Notes
Trade tensions are receding. In addition to Phase One of the China deal, Congress approved the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to replace NAFTA. President Trump is expected to sign the deal this week. Additionally, forward-looking data has generally been positive as sentiment improves and  central banks remain accommodative.

The Markets’ Reaction
Equity markets continued to rise led by the U.S. The S&P 500 climbed 2.0% (SPX) to a new record.  Emerging markets were up 1.2% (MXEF) followed by international developed markets returning 0.9% (MXEA). Bonds were mostly unchanged amid signs that business confidence is picking up.

What to Watch
Corporate earnings continue to roll in following last week’s generally solid reports from the major banks. The European Central Bank meets on Thursday. Flash Purchasing Manager Index (PMI) data is due on Friday from the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and Japan.

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