Weekly Market Recap – May 21, 2021
Weekly initial jobless claims sank to the lowest level since March 21, 2020, when 2.9 million first-time filings were tallied. Thursday’s report was 444,000 claims filed. Other key statistics, compared with their prior levels, were as follows: housing starts for April were 1.57 million (vs. 1.73 million), April’s existing-home sales figure was 5.85 million (vs. 6.01 million), April building permits were unchanged at 1.76 million. The index of leading economic indicators rose 1.6% in April, following a 1.3% rise in March.
Nearly half of all Americans have received at least one coronavirus vaccine shot. Cases and deaths in the U.S. have dropped to the lowest level in a year; nationwide, the positivity rate is below 3% for the first time since testing became widespread. Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire.
Stock market indices were marginally mixed for the week. The NASDAQ Composite moved 0.3% higher to 13,470.99 at Friday’s close. The S&P 500 eased to 4,155.86 (-0.4%), and the DJI slipped to 34,207.84 (-0.5%). CBOE’s VIX showed a 7.1% jump to 20.15, its first close over 20 in nine weeks. In currencies, the U.S. Dollar Index ebbed slightly, decreasing 0.3% to reach 90.02 at the week’s end. In general, commodities took a breather, evidenced by the S&P GSCI, whose basket of futures closed at 506.40 (-1.7%).
The metals futures we track diverged somewhat, as gold and silver advanced, and the other four contracts retreated. Settlement prices and percentage changes from the previous Friday ended as follows: gold at $1,876.70 (+2.1%), silver at $27.486 (+0.4%), platinum at $1,169.40 (-4.4%), palladium at $2,775.00 (-4.1%), copper at $4.4810 (-3.7%), and aluminum at $2,370.00 (-3.8%).
On the energy futures charts, the uptrend is flattening in the petroleum sector. For the week, NYMEX WTI took a dive to $62.05 per barrel, down 5.1%. ICE Brent fell to $66.44 (-3.3%). Percentage-wise, U.S. refined products weakened a lesser degree than crude: heating oil faded 2.4%, closing the week at $1.9882, and RBOB gasoline shaved off 2.7% to $2.0685 per gallon. Natural gas, reacting to a bearish storage report on Thursday, moved down 1.9% for the week, ending at $2.906 per mmBtu.
Among the nine agricultural products featured here, gainers edged out losers (5 to 4). Soybeans closed at $15.25¼ (-3.8%), corn gained 2.4%, ending the week at $6.59½, while wheat settled at $6.74¼ (-4.7%). Coffee perked up; the July contract popped to 150.10 (+3.5%). Cocoa prices slipped (-0.7%), ending at $2,456 per metric ton. Sugar’s path was downward, with July futures settling at 16.67¢ per pound (-1.7%). Cotton prices held their ground (+0.5%), as the front month’s final price for the week was 82.82¢ per pound. Livestock futures prices strengthened. Cattle rose to 117.675 (+2.1%), while hogs won the blue ribbon for the Ag category, scoring +5.1% in the contract for June delivery, and closing at 114.225 on Friday.
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