Investors enjoyed another positive week as major U.S. indices hit multi-year highs. The S&P 500 closed above the 1500 level for the first time since December 10, 2007, climbing 2.1 percent. The Dow rose 2.2 percent, and the Nasdaq gained 0.77 percent. Despite a mixed earnings picture, consumer discretionary stocks saw general strength, and investors remained bullish. In Washington, the House of Representatives punted on the debt ceiling debate, voting last week to raise the debt ceiling for four months without addressing important deficit issues. Instead, Congress will reevaluate the issue in May. The vote is generally considered to be a concession by House Republicans, who were reluctant to force a showdown over the debt ceiling and potentially force the U.S. to default on debt obligations. Unfortunately for investors, this means that uncertainty over America's debt problems will continue.In more positive news, jobless claims fell for the second week in a row to the lowest level since January 2008. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell to a seasonally-adjusted level of 330,000, heavily beating economists' expectations. Though analysts caution that unemployment data is volatile this time of year due to seasonal fluctuations, we hope that it is a reflection of a positive trend for the economy. Next week, traders will be paying close attention to a flood of economic reports to determine whether market fundamentals support further upside. The week starts off with the release of important housing and manufacturing data, which will hopefully indicate that the Fed's policies are taking effect. Later in the week, analysts will turn their attention to a raft of employment data to determine whether last week's positive results are part of an overall trend.As always, when markets reach new highs, we recommend patience and restrained exuberance. While short-term market movements can be exciting, we are focused on protecting wealth for the long-term. Should you have any questions about your portfolio or about markets in general, please reach out to us. We are delighted to be at your service.Headlines• U.S. manufacturing index at 10-month high. The Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), widely used to track the manufacturing sector, rose from 54 to 56.1, indicating a strong upward trend in manufacturing output. Analysts report that domestic demand is driving the growth, pointing to increased strength in the U.S. economy. • New home sales cool off. The Commerce Department reported that December sales of new homes fell 7.3 percent, though new home sales still grew nearly 20 percent in 2012. Analysts say that the news is not cause for worry, as sales data for the three preceding months were revised higher. • Stamps rise to 46 cents. Beginning this week, the price of a first-class stamp will go up as the USPS struggles to deal with insolvency and budget issues. Postage rates on other items will increase as well. • China's industrial profits increase. Profits earned by Chinese industrial companies grew 17 percent in December from a year earlier. The report indicates that industrial production, one of China's most important sectors to its GDP, is recovering. China's GDP grew 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter, snapping a seven-quarter slowdown. Mark Ballenger is an investment and financial planning consultant offering services to individual investors and business owners. His company, Centennial Capital Partners, has a location in Avon and can be reached at 970-471-9962. This report has been created with the cooperation of Platinum Advisor Marketing Strategies LLC. Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, a broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Ballenger is an investment adviser representative for Cambridge Investment Research Advisors Inc., a registered investment adviser. Centennial Capital Partners and Cambridge are not affiliated.
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