The Major Markets had another strong week as all 5 indices closed with sizable gains. This is the fourth consecutive week of gains for the domestic markets as the NASDAQ dominates with a year to date gain of 8.46%.
Energy and Natural Gas
The underlying sectors closed out mostly in the green with the one exception being Energy as it fell another 2.08% on the week. Energy has consistently struggled this year as only one week has closed with any mentionable gains. This largely can be attributed to the weakness in Natural Gas as the S&P GSCI Natural Gas index fell 5.36% last week and is now down 22.38% YTD.
The unusually warm weather this winter has worsened an already struggling energy market. Last week’s Natural Gas Storage Report marked a reduction of 114 billion cubic feet of gas. This places the current underground storage levels on par with the same time last year but higher than the 5-year average.
Market Participants looked favorably at Janet Yellen’s Valentine’s date with Congress last week. The Chairwoman said that the Fed would likely raise short-term interest rates soon due to the improving economy. This was further supported with the release of the Producer Price Index and the Consumer Price Index which both beat estimates with gains of 0.6% for the month. The Fed Watch tool now places the odds of a March rate increase at 38.4% as of Friday.
This holiday shortened trading week, participants will be looking at the release of the FOMC Meeting minutes from the beginning of the month for more clarity on the likelihood of a March Fed Funds Rate increase.
Presidents Day Insight
This week is of course shortened due to Presidents Day; a federal holiday which most Americans don’t properly observe due to the fact that there is actually no federal holiday named “President’s Day”. The federal holiday’s name is actually “George Washington's Birthday” which honors our country’s first president who was born on February 22nd, 1732.
The federal holiday was originally established by Congress in 1879 for Washington D.C. and later expanded to all federal offices nationwide. However, the holiday was changed by Congress in 1968 with the Uniform Holiday Act which moved the observance to always occur on a Monday, along with Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and additionally established Columbus Day.
Washington’s birthday was moved to the third Monday of February, a date that only falls sometime between the 15th of February and the 21st, always missing his actual birthday by at least one day.
An early draft of the Uniform Holiday Act did actually go so far as to rename the holiday to “Presidents Day”, but it never made it to the final bill.
And funny enough, George Washington wasn’t really born on February 22nd, at least at the time of his birth. The British empire was still using the Julian Calendar which placed Washington’s Birthday back on February 11th, 1731, still missing the calendar date that we celebrate. It was not until Washington was 20 did the calendar change over to the Gregorian calendar that we use today.