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2018 Finishes Off with a High Note on Wall Street



December, which is usually the best month of the year for stocks, was a rocky one this year.  In particular, the half-day of Christmas Eve, ushered in the all-time worst market drop.  The Dow fell 653.17 points, to 21,792.20.  The other indexes were in red as well, with the S & P officially in a bear market.  On December 26th, at the opening bell, thankfully there was a new tone.  The day had the single largest point rally ever, with the Dow leaping 1,086 points on heavy volume.

It seems for now, that President Trump is off the hook for starting the next recession. Despite his critic, Federal Reserve Chairman, Jerome Powell, raised interest rates a quarter of a percentage point on Dec. 19, for the fourth time this year and reiterated that he will continue on the course to increase rates.  But it seems the markets have bounced back from it, daring the Chairman to do his worst.

Market indicators are ushering in good news from several directions.  Insider buying is at an eight-year high.  This signals that insiders have a strong degree of confidence in their companies, and further in the broader industries and the economy at large. As reported by the NY Post, buyers doubled the amount they purchased during the past two months, over that purchased only two months earlier.

Shoppers also conveyed a bright future to Wall Street.  Retail sales grew a robust 5.1 percent from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24, according to Mastercard Spending Pulse.  Shoppers spent over $850 billion this year, indicating the strongest growth in the last six years. Online sales were also up 26.4 percent from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through Black Friday.  Overall in 2018, online shopping rose 19.1 percent, in comparison to 2017.

Apparel led the holiday shopping momentum, with a growth rate of 7.9 percent compared to 2017, recording the best growth rate since 2010.  Department stores finished the season, from November 1 through December 24, with a 1.3 percent decline in comparison to last year.  Though this may prompt more store closures, the online sales growth for department stores was quite reassuring, with growth of 10.2 percent.  Electronics and appliances holiday sales fell 0.7 percent.  Home improvement spending, however, made up for it, soaring 9.0 percent during the holiday season. The home furniture and furnishings category also grew 2.3 percent.

“From shopping aisles to online carts, consumer confidence translated into holiday cheer for retail,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO of Saks Incorporated. “By combining the right inventory with the right mix of online versus in-store, many retailers were able to give consumers what they wanted via the right shopping channels.”




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