- The current U.S. national debt is $27.7 trillion
- Initial unemployment claims reached 900,000 for the week ended January
- Existing-home sales rose 22% in December from the prior year
Top Three Market Headlines
Yellen Previews Biden Administration’s Economic Agenda: U.S. Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen last week previewed elements of the Biden administration’s proposed economic agenda in her confirmation hearing before Congress. Ms. Yellen highlighted aggressive federal spending as an immediate concern to help those impacted by the pandemic. Longer-term, she noted that the Biden administration favors some tax increases on wealthy Americans and corporations to fund the ambitious spending plans and reign in the national debt, which currently stands at nearly $28 trillion.
Jobless Claims Rise in Early January: The latest weekly jobless claims report indicated that initial unemployment claims reached 900,000 for the week ended January 16th. While down from 926,000 the prior week, this remained well above the post-pandemic low of 711,000 recorded in early November. The recent uptrend reflects the labor market’s ongoing struggle to recover, particularly in the wake of renewed COVID-19-induced economic restrictions imposed by certain cities and states towards the end of 2020. While recent weekly claims are down significantly from their late-March peak of nearly 7 million, they remain higher than that recorded during any previous recession since records were first kept in 1967.
U.S. Housing Market Strength Persists: Supported by low mortgage rates and the trend toward remote working, the U.S. housing market remained strong in December. Existing-home sales hit a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 6.76 million, up 0.7% from November and 22% from the prior year. Meanwhile, housing starts rose to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.67 million units, their highest level in 14 years, as homebuilders benefited from a continued shortage of existing homes available to meet the increased demand.