The Dow held steady today and managed a decent gain of 80 points to close at 16,416. Trading volume was weaker than a kitten.
The US Labor Dept. posted productivity numbers for 2015 and the trend continues to be weak. Productivity in 2015 was 0.6% making this the 5th year in a row with meager productivity growth. The report showed that while hiring is solid the bulk of hiring is being done in the service sector and that manufacturing jobs are being negatively affected by a strong dollar and cutbacks in energy related fields. The low productivity number means unit labor costs are on the rise.
Conoco Phillips reported earnings and the energy company posted a big loss as oil prices were lower than bat guano. The company missed estimates and had a huge non cash write-off related to low oil and changes in exploration plans. Going forward, CEO Ryan Lance (or is it Lance Ryan?) said they need to prepare for an extended period of low prices and along those lines said the company would cut the common stock divvy by 66% and reduce capex by 34% compared to 2015 levels.
Oil prices fell today after President Obama proposed a $10 per barrel fee to fund transportation and clean energy projects. Ouch! I guess this means he is officially not seeking a third term and so does not care about being popular. At the close WT crude was off 1.5% to $31.40 per barrel. Gold continues to rise gaining another $15 per barrel to $1,156.