Table of Contents
Stocks Lackluster Despite Positive Outlook
Stocks weakened ahead of this week’s Federal Reserve meeting and amid persistent concerns about the Delta variant’s impact on the economy.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat (-0.07%), while the Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 0.57%. The Nasdaq Composite index lost 0.47% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, dropped 0.65%.
Despite a string of economic reports painting a healthy picture of the U.S. economy, investor sentiment remained cautious. While tamer inflation and higher-than-expected retail sales may typically be constructive for the market, any investor enthusiasm it generated was fleeting.
The market appeared all week to be encumbered by a tentative, apprehensive mood. The Delta variant remained an overhang, but it was more than that. Investors appeared concerned about September, which historically has been a weak month for stock prices. The market also was concerned about fiscal and tax policy proposals emanating from Washington D.C., news of an economic slowdown in China, and by what the Fed may announce following its September 21-22 Federal Open Market Committee meeting.
Taking the Economic Pulse
A series of economic reports released last week provided investors with a broad snapshot of the state of the economic recovery.
Inflation showed signs of moderating, rising 0.3%—an elevated rate, but well below June and July’s increases of 0.9% and 0.5%, respectively. The consumer remained strong as retail sales rose 0.7%, an unexpected jump. Manufacturing reached pre-pandemic, while the labor market continued …
Table of Contents
Delta Variant Concerns Markets
In a quiet week of news, stocks moved lower amid simmering concerns over the Delta variant’s effect on the progress of economic reopening.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 2.15%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 dropped 1.69%. The Nasdaq Composite index fell 1.61% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, slipped 0.63%.
In a holiday-shortened week of trading, markets were choppy as investors grew cautious in the face of a potential Fed tapering decision later this month and the impact of Delta on the economic recovery.
What little news there was, it was decidedly mixed. Job growth showed real strength coming off a shaky employment report the previous Friday, while the Producer Price Index surged by 8.3% year-over-year, representing the largest annual increase since November 2010. The release reminded investors that inflation remained a market risk. Stocks tried to stage a rebound on Friday before sagging to close out the week.
After a disappointing employment report, two labor market reports last week appeared to show that the labor market recovery appeared intact. The JOLTS report (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) showed 10.9 million open jobs, a number that exceeded the number of unemployed by more than two million. The rate of hiring, however, decelerated, perhaps explaining why the …
Table of Contents
Data and Delta Scramble Stock Results
Stocks were mixed last week amid conflicting economic data and continued spread of Delta variant infections.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.24% during the five trading days. But the Standard & Poor’s 500 tacked on 0.58% and the Nasdaq Composite index rose 1.55%. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, gained 1.51%.
Investors gravitated toward the high growth technology and communication services sectors, as well as the more defensive sectors, such as utilities and real estate. Reopening stocks were weighed down by Delta variant fears and a retreating consumer, while energy struggled to bounce in the wake of Hurricane Ida shutting down energy production and refining capacity.
Stocks appeared to shrug off a shaky employment report on Friday, despite the questions it raised about economic growth in the months ahead.
After initial jobless claims reached a new pandemic low on Thursday, the August employment report on Friday came in below expectations as payrolls expanded by 235,000. Adding to the subdued report was a 4% decline in the number of hours worked by employees. On the positive side, the Friday report showed the unemployment rate fell to 5.2%, while wage growth rose 0.6% from July and increased 4.3% from August 2020.
The weak employment report may reflect a …
Table of Contents
Tapering Likely in 2021
The stock market powered to record levels last week amid talk of Fed tapering and a deceleration in new Delta variant cases.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.96%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 increased 1.52%. The Nasdaq Composite index led, picking up 2.82%. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, rose 1.39%.
Stocks surged to begin the week as investor sentiment improved on news of the FDA’s approval of its first COVID-19 vaccine, a strong housing number and comments by the Federal Reserve Bank-Dallas president that he would support delaying tapering if the Delta variant spread worsened.
Stocks continued their climb through midweek, pushing the S&P 500 to another record high and the NASDAQ Composite above 15,000 for the first time. The S&P 500 and NASDAQ Composite closed the week at record highs following Fed Chair Powell’s comments that Fed is likely to begin winding down its monthly bond purchases (aka tapering) by year-end, though no interest rate hikes were imminent.
At last week’s Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium, Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s speech on Friday provided further insights into Fed plans to begin tapering. Powell said that the Fed may likely commence tapering prior to year-end, adding that the wind down of bond purchases should not be seen as a signal for future rate hikes. Powell emphasized that labor market conditions remain short of the Fed’s target for maximizing employment. He also reiterated his case for why inflation remains a transitory phenomenon.
With a number of Regional Federal Reserve Bank presidents already…
Table of Contents
Will the Fed Taper in 2021?
Stocks turned lower last week amid the increasing probability of a Fed tapering, mixed economic data, and growing concerns about the economic impact of the Delta variant.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 1.11%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 0.59%. The Nasdaq Composite index slipped 0.73%. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, surrendered 2.94%.
After the Dow Industrials and S&P 500 index climbed to new record highs to begin the week, stocks pulled back amid weaker-than-expected retail sales, festering concerns about the Delta variant, and slowing growth in China.
The stock market retreat accelerated mid-week with the release of the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) meeting minutes, which signaled that Fed officials may be ready to begin reducing its monthly bond purchases before the end of the year. Stocks managed to stabilize on Friday, paring some of the week’s losses. Consumer staples, health care, real estate, and utilities were the top-performing groups.
Taper by Year End?
Two weeks ago, multiple regional Federal Reserve Bank presidents suggested that the economy was strong enough to justify tapering the Fed’s monthly bond purchases.
Last week, that chorus grew a bit louder with the release of minutes from July’s FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) meeting. The precise timing was left undecided, with some officials believing …Read More
Table of Contents
Passage of Infrastructure Boosts Stocks
Looking past inflation figures and Delta variant trends, stocks last week found a way to climb higher and set fresh record highs in the process.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.87%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 advanced 0.71%. The Nasdaq Composite index was flat (-0.09%) for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, gained 0.77%.
Stocks moved higher amid relatively light trading last week. After initially retreating under the weight of Delta variant updates, stocks grinded higher, catalyzed by the Senate’s passage of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
Two themes emerged last week. The first was that inflation assumed a less threatening profile. The most recent Consumer Price Index report showed some moderation in consumer price increases, while investors appeared to interpret a hotter-than-expected Producer Price Index report as the peak in this inflation cycle.
Also worth noting were comments by multiple Federal Reserve Bank regional presidents suggesting that the time for tapering (i.e., ending the Fed’s bond purchases) was nearing, with one intimating that tapering could start as early as October.
Consumer prices climbed at their fastest rate since August 2008, rising 5.4% year-over-year. But this elevated rate was expected by most economists. The core inflation rate (excludes the more volatile food and energy prices) came in 4.3% higher, substantially lower than anticipated. This deceleration in core inflation was largely attributed to a slowdown in price increases in used cars and apparel.
More unsettling was the following day’s Producer Price …Read More
Table of Contents
Jobs Strong, Earnings Strong
Overcoming jitters about the Delta variant and the reintroduction of mask requirements, stocks climbed higher on strong employment data and a fresh batch of strong corporate earnings.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.78% while the Standard & Poor’s 500 advanced 0.94%. The Nasdaq Composite index gained 1.11% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, picked up 1.61%.
Push and Pull
The crosscurrents of strong corporate profits and the rise in Delta variant infections led to a roller coaster week of price action, as markets alternated between daily gains and losses. By Thursday, however, investors appeared to grow more optimistic that the economic reopening was not under serious threat when back-to-back employment reports suggested that the economic recovery remained on track.
A favorable initial jobless claims report was enough to send the S&P 500 and Nasdaq to new all-time highs. Thanks to Friday’s stronger-than-expected employment report, the S&P 500 managed to add to its previous record close, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average set its own record high. The more tech-centric Nasdaq, however, slipped off its highs.
Last week reinforced the idea of an improving labor market. After a disappointing ADP (Automated Data Processing) National Employment Report that showed a slowdown in private-sector hiring, with just 330,000 new jobs added, subsequent employment data were much more encouraging.
Thursday’s report of a modest drop in initial jobless claims to 385,000 and a more substantial drop of 366,000 in continuing claims was followed by a solid employment report on Friday, which showed …
Table of Contents
Market Shows Small Loss
The stock market posted small losses last week despite a very strong showing by corporate America.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.36%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 0.37%. The Nasdaq Composite index dropped 1.11% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, jumped 1.51%.
Stocks Take a Breather
There were plenty of excuses for stocks to retreat last week. News of a new phase in Chinese regulators’ crackdown on large, private-sector companies, a decline in new home sales, and concerns about the Delta variant weighed on investors.
After opening the week adding to record highs, stocks turned lower despite an earnings season that continued to impress.
Solid earnings from the mega-cap technology companies were not enough to propel stocks higher. Instead, stocks slipped throughout the week, fighting uncertainty over Chinese stocks, a disappointing second-quarter Gross Domestic Product number, and a retreat in technology shares they reset to fresh company guidance.
Chinese technology stocks were under pressure last week as Chinese regulators continued their push to rein in large companies for reasons that include data security, abusive corporate behavior, financial stability, and curtailing private-sector power.
Chinese government actions raised new levels of concerns about which industries may next fall in the crosshairs of regulators. American investors have plenty of exposure to Chinese companies. Substantial losses were felt by mutual funds and hedge funds, which account for about …
Table of Contents
Markets Overcome Delta Variant Reports
Overcoming a COVID-related economic growth scare, stocks moved higher amid a week of strong corporate earnings reports.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.08%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 gained 1.96%. The Nasdaq Composite index soared 2.84% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, dipped 0.20%.
Delta Variant Head Fake
Stocks staged a broad retreat on Monday as traders worried about the adverse economic implications of growing Delta variant infections. Economically sensitive sectors, such as energy, financials, industrials, and materials, absorbed the brunt of Monday’s sell-off.
But the markets did a quick about face, posting four-consecutive days of gains and leaving the three major averages with fresh record highs.
The sharp reversal may be attributable to a “buy on the dip” investor mentality, the absence of investment alternatives to stocks in this low interest rate environment, and massive financial liquidity. Stocks were also lifted by a healthy kick-off to the second quarter earnings season.
The earnings season moved into full swing last week, and the results exceeded the market’s high expectations.
Of the 120 companies in the S&P 500 index that have reported as of Friday, July 23, 89% of them beat the Street’s earnings-per-share estimates by, on average, 20.6%. Financials and Consumer Discretionary sectors provided the biggest earnings surprises (+28.9% and +24.5%, respectively), while Materials and Utilities delivered the smallest positive surprises (+5.3% and +2.5%, respectively).
These earnings beats are leading Wall Street analysts to …
Table of Contents
Stocks Retreat, Inflation Advances
Despite a good start to earnings season and some solid economic data, worries of slower second-half economic growth led to a pullback in stock prices last week.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.52%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 0.97%. The Nasdaq Composite index sank 1.87% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, was flat (-0.06%).
Stocks weakened amid an active week of news, including two important inflation reports, Congressional testimony from Fed Chair Jerome Powell, a string of economic reports, and the start of the second-quarter earnings season.
The earnings season began on a strong note as 95% of the first S&P 500 constituent companies to report checked in with “earnings above estimates” by an average of 22%. Despite these above-expectation earnings, stocks moved little on the results.
Bond yields continued to trend lower amid Powell’s testimony that monetary policy would remain unchanged. A decline in consumer sentiment fed worries of economic slowdown, leading stock lower and cementing losses for the week.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) jumped 5.4% in June, representing the biggest monthly gain since August 2008. The core CPI, which excludes food and energy, increased 4.5%, which was the fastest pace since September 1991.
The CPI report was followed by the Producer Price Index, which surged 7.3% from a year earlier, outpacing May’s jump of 6.6%. Higher wholesale prices were primarily attributed to …Read More