The stock market, yesterday, turned in one of the more volatile sessions, in a series of increasingly volatile sessions over the past several weeks. In all, the market posted a slightly lower opening and then moved toward the breakeven mark by mid-session. Then, in the early afternoon, there was the issuance of the Federal Reserve's minutes to its last FOMC meeting. That report basically had the lead bank acknowledge that the economy was slowing more than it had forecast earlier and that the expansion was at some risk. In response, the Fed hinted that it might be disposed to introduce some additional stimulus, such as we saw with its first two rounds of quantitative easing. The Fed did not suggest this was in the cards necessarily, but it did leave the door open to such action should the upturn falter further.
That possibility helped the stock market turn higher, and to do so in a hurry. Thus, shortly after the FOMC minutes were released, the Dow Jones Industrial Average sped to a gain of some 60 points, and even the NASDAQ, in the red for most of the session, moved modestly into the plus column. Then, some worrisome news on the economy in Ireland came out, with a debt-rating agency downgrade of that country's borrowings, and stocks fell anew into the close. By session's end, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was off by 59 points; the NASDAQ was lower by 21 points; and the Standard and Poor's 500 Index was in the red by almost six points. The Standard and Poor's 400 Index, a key mid-cap composite, meantime, fell four points as did the small-cap-weighted Russell 2000 Index.
Meanwhile, at home, there was further disquieting news on the international trade front, with May data showing a trade imbalance of a staggering $50.2 billion, almost seven billion dollars more than the deficit in April, about six billion dollars more than the consensus forecast, and a level that was the highest in more than two years. Worse, exports, which help narrow the deficit, actually fell in May, the latest month for which global trade figures are yet available, after a series of monthly increases, while imports ballooned further. The trade gap serves to pressure GDP growth, as exports add to aggregate economic activity, while imports detract from such growth. The latest trade figures now suggest that the nation's GDP, which edged up by a tepid 1.9% in the first quarter, may not even reach that modest rate of improvement in the just-ended three months. Hopefully, the lower average oil prices in June will help narrow the shortfall when June trade data are released in mid-August, but the slower growth globally may not help our exports, which have been one of the few areas of our economy to show consistent strength.
As for the rest of the economic picture, we will see little of note today. However, the rest of the week will be quite active from the standpoint of economic releases, starting with a trio of key reports tomorrow, on jobless claims, retail sales, and producer prices. Then, on Friday, we will get data on industrial production, factory use, and consumer prices.
Meanwhile, it was a somewhat better night overseas, with figures showing that China's second-quarter gross domestic product advanced at a faster rate than generally forecast. That metric reduces the potential for a hard land in the world's second largest economy. We will get GDP data here later this month and, following the disquieting trade figures issued yesterday, our sense is that GDP growth may have softened to the 1.5%-2.0% range in the just ended three months. We still expect somewhat better news on that front in the second half of this year, but our confidence in that presumptive improvement is not that high.
Finally, with the Asian and European bourses all doing better, our own futures are pointing to a higher opening here. Specifically, the Standard and Poor's 500 Index futures are up by some four points with less than an hour to go before the start of the new trading day, while the NASDAQ futures are now ahead by more than 12 points.