For investors, 2012 began in the right direction as stocks ended the first week of the year UP. But this result was due mainly to an upsurge on Tuesday that was big enough to offset tepid performances the next three days, when traders got jittery over Europe. Spain was in the spotlight again, with new player Hungary now adding to the financial uncertainty. The net result was a weaker Euro, falling about 0.6% to a new 16-month low of $1.27. Time to take that European vacation.
Encouragement came with manufacturing growing in December at its fastest pace in six months. Weekly initial jobless claims dropped again, to 372,000. The December employment report was an upside surprise, with 200,000 new nonfarm jobs showing up and the unemployment rate inching down to 8.5%. But a few observers were concerned there’s probably some seasonality in those numbers. ISM Services, which tracks the sector responsible for over 80% of U.S. jobs, came in a little lower than expected, although still in growth territory.
For the week, the Dow ended UP 1.2%, at 12360; the S&P 500 closed UP 1.6%, to 1278; and the Nasdaq gained 2.7%, to 2674.
The bond market elicited mixed results for the week, with Treasuries trending lower, but continuing Euro worries supported prices elsewhere. The FNMA 3.5% bond we watch ended the week UP .78, at $103.05. Average fixed mortgage rates across the U.S. started the new year at or near record lows as tracked by Freddie Mac’s weekly survey.