The US stock and bond markets are closed today in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Futures and currency markets are trading, however. Crude oil is lower, gold and silver are mixed, and the dollar is up a bit.

The 2024 presidential election season is shifting into a higher gear today, with Iowa holding the nation’s first state-wide vote. Former president Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the Republican field, according to most polls, with Florida governor Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley fighting for second place. Caucus voters will have to battle brutal cold, with wind chills as low as negative-30 expected tonight.

Speaking of elections, Taiwanese voters chose current vice president Lai Ching-te to be the island’s next president. That result is ratcheting up tensions in the region because China views him and his Democratic Progressive Party as more pro-independence than other candidates. China has held increasingly provocative military exercises around Taiwan in the last couple of years, and made clear it views the island as part of the Chinese nation.

Office Vacancy Rate Hits Record High
Source: Moody’s Analytics

Finally, many of the nation’s office properties remain vacant almost four years after the COVID-19 pandemic began. The nationwide vacancy rate climbed to 19.6% in Q4 2023, according to Moody’s Analytics. That was up from just under 17% pre-pandemic and the highest since the firm began tracking in 1979. The rise of remote work, overbuilding, and evolving space preferences among tenants have all contributed to the vacancy rate rise.