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U.S. Markets:  U.S. stocks recorded solid gains for the week and several indices hit record highs.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 273 points finishing the week at 35,209, a gain of 0.8%.  The NASDAQ retraced all of last week’s decline by rising 1.1% to close at 14,836.  By market cap, the large cap S&P 500 rose 0.9%, while the mid cap S&P 400 and small cap Russell 2000 gained 0.5% and 1.0%, respectively.

International MarketsMajor international markets also finished the week solidly in the green.  Canada’s TSX added 0.9%, while the United Kingdom’s FTSE 100 gained 1.3%.  France’s CAC 40 and Germany’s DAX rose 3.1% and 1.4%, respectively.  China’s Shanghai Composite added 1.8%, while Japan’s Nikkei rallied 2%.  As grouped by Morgan Stanley Capital International, developed markets finished up 1.0% and emerging markets gained 0.7%.

Commodities:  Precious metals had a difficult week.  Gold retreated -3.0% to $1763.10 per ounce, while Silver fell a steeper -4.8% to $24.33.  West Texas Intermediate crude oil gave up all of the last two week’s gains, declining -7.7% to $68.28 per barrel.  The industrial metal copper, viewed by some analysts as a barometer of world economic health due to its wide variety of uses, finished the week down -3%.

U.S. Economic News:  The number of Americans filing first-time unemployment benefits fell close to a pandemic low, indicating the economy is thus far avoiding major damage from the so-called “delta strain” of the coronavirus.  Initial jobless claims dropped by 14,000 to 385,000 in the week ended July 31, the government said.  The reading matched the consensus forecast.  Applications had surged to a two-month high in mid-July, but the increase appears to have stemmed from seasonal swings in summer employment.  Economists are watching to see if the contagious delta strain triggers more layoffs or discourages people from looking for work.  New claims fell the most in Pennsylvania, Texas, Michigan and Georgia.  The only state to post a large increase was Indiana.  Meanwhile, continuing claims, which count the number of people already receiving benefits, declined by 366,000 to 2.93 million.  That number is a new pandemic low.

The U.S. added 943,000 jobs in July, a sign the economy continued to gain steam and is (so far) withstanding concerns over a “delta variant” of the coronavirus.  The increase in hiring last month--the biggest in nearly a year, easily exceeded Wall Street’s estimates.  Economists had forecast just 845,000 new jobs would be created.  Privately owned businesses added 703,000 employees last month, mostly at restaurants, hotels and other providers of leisure and entertainment.  Furthermore, the unemployment rate fell sharply to a fresh pandemic low of 5.4% from 5.9% in June.  Many economists predict more people will rejoin the labor force in the fall after schools reopen and extra federal benefits put in place during the pandemic expire.

U.S. manufacturers continue to struggle to cope with broad shortages of key supplies and labor leading to delays in production and weighing on the economic recovery.  The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported its closely-followed index of U.S.-based manufacturing dipped 5.1 points to a six-month low of 59.5 in July.  That was slightly below Wall Street forecasts.  While numbers above 50 signify growth, the survey had topped 60 for 5 months in a row, a reflection of the strong recovery in the economy.  ISM reported that businesses would be growing even faster if not for persistent difficulties in getting materials on time and finding qualified people to hire.  In a potentially good sign, Timothy Fiore, chairman of the survey, said price increases may have peaked and companies are starting to resolve supply bottlenecks.  “You are going to see prices drop as suppliers have more capacity to meet demand,” he wrote.

Factory orders rose 1.5% in June, on stronger demand for big ticket items like airplanes, oil, and other industrial goods.  New orders have risen in 13 of the last 14 months, reflecting the resiliency of the U.S. economy and the manufacturing sector during the pandemic.  Orders for goods expected to last at least three years, so-called “durable goods”, rose 0.9% the Commerce Department said.  That number beat expectations by 0.1%.  The biggest increase in new bookings involved commercial airplanes.  Core capital goods orders, which exclude large ticket items like aircraft and military equipment, rose 0.7% in June.  Orders for shorter-lasting “non-durable goods” such as food, clothing, and medications, advanced 2.1% in the month.   

A survey of the much-larger services side of the U.S. economy rose to a record 64.1 in July - up from 60.1 in the prior month, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported.  Economists had forecast the index would total just 60.5% in July.  While readings above 50 signal expansion, numbers above 60 are considered exceptional.  In the details of the report, new orders and the level of production rose again in July and were near all-time highs.  Employment also turned positive again after a negative reading in June.  Seventeen industries tracked by ISM reported growth in July while none contracted.  Chief economist Stephen Stanley of Amherst Pierpont Securities wrote in a note to clients, “The economy is literally bursting at the seams, as demand is as strong as I have ever seen it and supply is struggling to catch up.”

International Economic News:  Job growth in Canada slowed in July after a strong showing the previous month.  Still, the gain was enough to recoup jobs lost in April and May due to a third wave of COVID-19 infections and accompanying economic restrictions.  Statistics Canada reported Canada’s economy added 94,000 jobs in July.  Market expectations were for 165,000 new positions to be added, according to economists with TD Securities.  In June, the labor market added 230,700 jobs.  Meanwhile, Canada’s unemployment rate declined to 7.5% in July, down from the previous month's 7.8% reading.  The rate matched the lowest reading recorded since the start of the pandemic.

Across the Atlantic, Bank of England left its monetary policy unchanged this week but warned of a more pronounced period of above-target inflation in the near term.  Policymakers voted unanimously to keep its main lending rate at historic low of 0.1%, where it has been since March 2020, and voted 7-1 to maintain its quantitative easing program at £895 billion ($1.25 trillion).  The central bank also raised its inflation forecasts following two consecutive months of above-forecast readings.  "Overall, Bank staff now expect inflation to rise materially further in the near term, temporarily reaching 4% in 2021 Q4 and 2022 Q1, 1½ percentage points higher than in the May projection," the bank said in its monetary policy report.

On Europe’s mainland, after almost 18 months of relying extensively on expensive emergency aid programs to support their economies, government across Europe are scaling back some of these measures.  But the insurgent spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus has thrown a new variable into that calculation, prompting concerns about whether now is a good time to rollback assistance.  The Eurozone economy has finally exited a double-dip recession, reversing the region’s worst downturn since World War II.  European Union governments, which have spent nearly 2 trillion euros in pandemic aid and stimulus and have released nearly all businesses from lockdown restrictions.  Bert Colijn, senior Eurozone economist at ING said, “Cutting the aid short too quickly could create an aftershock that would have negative economic effects after they’ve done so much.”

In Asia, a Reuters poll showed Japan’s economy likely recovered only slightly in the second quarter from a steep slump at the start of the year.  The poll reported preliminary gross domestic product (GDP) data will show the economy grew an annualized 0.7% in April-June, after a 3.9% slump in the first quarter.  On a quarter-on-quarter basis, GDP likely grew 0.2%.  Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute noted, “There won't be much of a rebound from the first quarter's big contraction.”  Shinke said expanded COVID-19 curbs and surging infections weighed on consumption during the summer.

A letter from influential industry organizations asked the White House to resume negotiations with China on tariffs and other measures that stalled during the lingering trade dispute.  The groups, which represented a wide-range of interests, said that the Biden administration should take “swift action” to address “burdensome” tariffs.  The letter, addressed to the Treasury Department and the United States trade representative, comes as the relationship between the world’s two largest economies remains fractious.  The U.S. and China remain at odds over human rights, cyberattacks and China’s military operations in the South China Sea.

(Sources:  All index- and returns-data from Yahoo Finance; news from Reuters, Barron’s, Wall St. Journal,,,,,,,, Eurostat, Statistics Canada, Yahoo! Finance,,,, BBC,,,, FactSet, WE Sherman.)