Hopes and fears related to the “fiscal cliff” issue in the U.S. made for mixed performance in commodities this week. Only natural gas moved significantly. Prices for the heating fuel plunged on warm-weather forecasts. Stocks, as measured by the S&P 500, edged up half a percent in the period, taking their year-to-date gain to 12.5 percent.
Economic data in the U.S. was decidedly positive this week, but markets couldn’t look past the fiscal cliff risk. With only a month remaining before automatic tax hikes and spending cuts go into effect, politicians have yet to move toward anything resembling a bipartisan compromise. Various meetings between leaders this week have yielded nothing of substance, according to several sources.
Still, hopes are that the two parties, Democrats and Republicans, will eventually come together and strike a deal to avert the fiscal cliff given that the economic stakes are so high.
That said, for now, economic data remain encouraging. The holiday shopping season kicked off with a bang. Retail sales over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend totaled $59 billion, up 13 percent from a year ago.
Another bright spot continues to be the housing market. The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index rose by 0.39 percent in September, the eighth-straight monthly gain. Prices were up 3 percent year-over-year.
Meanwhile, pending home sales rose by 5.2 percent in October to the highest level in six years.
Finally, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the U.S. economy grew by 2.7 percent annualized in the third quarter, up from its initial 2 percent estimate.
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