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U.S. stocks edged higher yesterday following a three-day weekend as another round of U.S.-China trade talks begin in Washington. The market’s gains were led by the consumer staples and materials sectors.

 

The December retail-sales numbers reported by the government may have panicked financial markets, but Walmart the largest U.S. retailer isn’t sweating it.  The company reported that U.S. comparable-store sales in the January-ending quarter were up 4.2%, beating the company’s previous guidance.  Walmart continues to step up their investment in e-commerce to compete against Amazon and it appears to be working as their e-commerce sales grew 43% last quarter.

 

The National Association of Home Builders’ monthly confidence index jumped 4 points to a seasonally adjusted reading of 62 in February.   Any reading over 50 signals improvement. Builders are in a sweet spot right now with economic conditions like a strong job market helping them sell more homes and falling mortgage rates making that job even easier.

 

Oregon Governor Kate Brown is considering selling the state’s workers compensation insurance corporation (also known as saif) or tapping its substantial capital surplus to hold down future pension costs for school districts around the state.  If Brown moves forward with such a plan, it would be her boldest move yet to rein in the runaway costs of PERS.   It’s also one that would face substantial blowback from the business community.

 

With Northwest Quadrant Wealth Management, I'm Tyler Simones

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