Economic Picture Continues to Show Improvement

This past week there were several economic data points that furthered the recent trend of improvements in the domestic economy.  S&P/Case Schiller data for home prices in their 20-city composite index increased 13.6% y/y in October after a 13.25% y/y increase reported for September.  Conference Board Consumer Confidence was reported at 78, beating expectations and increasing six points versus the prior month, while the Conference Board’s Leading Indicators index is up eight straight months now. Fiscal policy is contributing to the improving picture, but there are risks, including the looming debt ceiling debate. Next week there are a number of important data points that will be watched closely by investors, including the nonfarm payrolls release and the unemployment rate.  As we begin 2014, we are cautiously optimistic that economic data will continue to build on this positive trend and, if they do, that financial markets will weather the Fed’s exit from QE.  To take advantage of this outlook, we have reduced portfolio duration in both short and intermediate strategies and maintained a moderately bar belled key-rate-duration structure in our intermediate strategy client portfolios.