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Fed: Rate Hikes Near
Deteriorating investor enthusiasm for high-valuation growth companies and a mixed start to the fourth-quarter earnings season made for a volatile week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.88%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 slipped 0.30%. The Nasdaq Composite index fell 0.28% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, gained 1.31%.
Stocks were under pressure all week as investors grappled with higher bond yields and talk of possibly four rate hikes this year. Initially, intraday declines would bring out buyers and pare the losses. Investors were particularly heartened by Fed Chair Powell’s congressional testimony on Tuesday that softened the hawkish tone found in the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee’s December meeting.
After digesting the hot inflation reports released mid-week, stocks were unable to resist the selling pressures on Thursday. A weak retail sales number, a resumption in the rise in yields, and mixed earnings from some of the big money center banks weighed on the market during Friday’s trading.
Inflation and the Fed
Inflation reports last week continued to reflect upward momentum in consumer prices. The Consumer Price Index posted a 7.0% year-over-year jump–the biggest increase since 1982, while the Producer Price Index rose 9.7% from a year earlier–the fastest pace since 2010 when the index was reconstituted.4,5
Markets responded calmly as both numbers were in the neighborhood of expectations and the monthly increase for each moderated from previous single-month increases. The price pressures are expected to …
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Hawkish Fed; Stocks Retreat
A jump in yields sparked by a more aggressive sounding Federal Reserve sent the market lower to start the new year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.29%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 declined 1.87%. The Nasdaq Composite index was hardest hit, dropping 4.53% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, slipped 0.55%.
The Tech Wreck
The perception of a more hawkish Fed put a hard stop to the year’s positive start and pushed bond yields higher and stocks into a broad retreat.
Technology and other high-valuation shares were particularly hard hit by rising yields. Even the larger-capitalization technology companies with strong cash flows and profits were damaged. As yields trend higher, investors are questioning if these companies can lead the market in 2022. Fueling this decline was a four-day sell-off of technology companies by hedge funds that, in dollar terms, represented the highest level in more than ten years. Stocks continued to struggle into the final trading day, unsettled by a renewed climb in yields and an ambiguous employment report.
The Fed’s Surprise
Minutes of December’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting were released last week and it revealed a more hawkish Fed than investors had been expecting. One surprise was that the first hike in interest rates could occur as early as March. Another, and perhaps more consequential, surprise was the idea of beginning a “balance sheet run-off” by the Fed following the first hike in the federal funds rate.
A balance sheet run-off means that maturing bonds won’t be replaced with new bonds, the result of which is a smaller Fed balance sheet. Many investors view this step as …
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Stocks End Year Mostly Positive
Stocks closed out the year on a mostly positive note, adding to the year’s gains as concerns about the economic issues of Omicron infections receded.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.08%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 picked up 0.85%. The Nasdaq Composite index was flat (-0.05%) for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, posted an increase of 0.80%.
Stocks Notch Record Highs
The end of the year is historically a strong period for stocks–a seasonal pattern dubbed “The Santa Claus Rally.” This year’s final week of trading did not disappoint as stocks posted healthy gains to kick off the week, despite a global increase in Omicron infections. Investors were buoyed by data that showed fewer associated hospitalizations, which helped ease fears of the variant’s economic impact.
The S&P 500 set multiple fresh record highs, with Wednesday’s new high representing the 70th such high in 2021, while the Dow Industrials recorded its first new record since November. Stocks drifted on low trading volume in the final two trading days of the year, capping a good week, a solid month, and a strong year for investors.
Robust Holiday Sales
The market got off to a good start last week in part due to a strong holiday sales report. A major credit card issuer reported that consumer holiday spending rose 8.5% from last year’s levels, driven by an 11.0% gain in online sales. It was the biggest annual increase in 17 years. The spending by consumers…
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Fed Tightens Money Policy
Stock prices retreated last week as global central banks joined the Federal Reserve in taking steps to tighten monetary policy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.68%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 dropped 1.94%. The Nasdaq Composite index tumbled 2.95% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, managed a gain of 0.47%.
From Uncertain to Unsettled
Stocks weakened ahead of Wednesday’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting as investors weighed how aggressive the Fed might be in reversing its easy-money policies. Investor sentiment was further dented by disappointing economic data. Retail sales fell short of expectations and a year-over-year jump of 9.6% in producer prices reflected price pressures that may translate into higher future consumer prices. It was the highest percentage increase since records started in 2010.
The market initially responded well to the FOMC announcement on Wednesday afternoon, but became unsettled into Thursday and Friday over a tighter monetary policy and Omicron concerns.
A New Fed Narrative
After the FOMC meeting, the Fed announced a plan to quicken the tapering of its monthly bond purchases. It plans to double the rate from $15 billion a month (announced in November) to $30 billion a month, effectively putting an end to asset purchases by March 2022. The Fed also signaled that as many as three rate hikes may be coming in 2022.
The Fed cited elevated inflation and an improved labor market as justification for the pivot from …
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Omicron News Boosts Stocks
A more benign reassessment of the possible economic risk posed by Omicron sent stocks sharply higher last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average picked up 4.02%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 advanced 3.82%. The Nasdaq Composite index gained 3.61% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, rose 2.74%.
Though much is still unknown about the Omicron variant, reports of potentially milder health effects and the efficacy of booster shots ignited optimism that its economic impact would be less severe than originally feared.
Stocks rallied higher each of the first three days, with strong gains in many of the reopening stocks, such as airlines, travel and leisure, financials, and energy. The performance of high-valuation growth companies was a bit more erratic as they rose and fell sharply throughout much of the week. Weakening Thursday, stocks turned higher on Friday despite a hot inflation number, pushing the S&P 500 to a new record high.
November’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) came in at a nearly 40-year high, rising 0.8% from the previous month and 6.8% from a year ago. It is the 6th-consecutive month that inflation has exceeded 5%. Core inflation (excluding the more volatile food and energy prices) came in lower, but still posted its sharpest jump since 1991.
Economists have attributed this elevated inflation rate to strong consumer demand, a shortage of goods due to …
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Powell Surprises; Omicron Concerns
Stocks took investors on a wild ride last week as the Omicron variant and Fed comments upended market expectations. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.91%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 stumbled 1.22%. The Nasdaq Composite index dropped 2.62% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, lost 0.62%.
A Tumultuous Week
Stock prices were volatile all week, swinging wildly after staging a modest recovery to begin the week. Omicron fears were not the only issue weighing on investors. Markets were also rattled by Fed Chair Powell’s Congressional testimony stating conditions warranted considering an acceleration of its bond purchase taper schedule. Last week’s roller-coaster action was epitomized on Wednesday when stocks rallied intraday by 520 points on the Dow Industrials, only to close the session lower by 460 points.
Stocks staged a powerful rebound on Thursday on news that a second Omicron infection exhibited mild symptoms. Also helping the rebound was news that an agreement was reached in the House of Representatives to temporarily fund the government and word from President Biden that an economic lockdown was not in the plan to fight COVID this winter. Emblematic of the volatile week, stocks fell on Friday following a weak jobs report.
Powell Surprises Markets
Markets easily digested the Fed’s early-November announcement that it would pull the trigger on its bond purchase tapering program, but were caught off-guard by Powell’s comments during Congressional testimony last Tuesday. Powell indicated that the …
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COVID-19 Variant Clobbers Markets
News of a new, highly virulent COVID variant triggered a market sell-off on Friday, sending stocks into negative territory for the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 1.97%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 slumped 2.20%. The Nasdaq Composite index lost 3.52% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, dropped 1.68%.
Investors woke up on Black Friday to reports of a mutated COVID variant, reviving fears of potential new economic restrictions. U.S. markets were not alone, as stock prices in Europe and Asia also tumbled.
Friday’s market action saw declines in economic reopening stocks, such as travel and leisure, cyclicals, financials, and energy, while some of the so-called stay-at-home stocks and pharmaceutical stocks experienced gains. Yields retreated amid a flight to safety and the potential that this turn of events may lead to a slowdown in the Fed’s bond tapering program and a delay in contemplated rate hikes. Prior to Thanksgiving the markets had been choppy, but largely trending higher for the week, while yields had moved up with the renomination of Fed Chair Powell.
President Biden announced last week that he was renominating Jerome Powell to serve another term as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, ending market speculation surrounding his renomination.
President Biden cited the need for stability and independence in a time of uncertainty in making his decision. While Powell’s renomination faced resistance, Senate approval appears likely. Coincident with Powell’s renomination, President Biden also…
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Stocks Mixed on COVID-19, Powell
Stocks were mixed last week in choppy trading as investors battled the crosscurrents of good economic data and a troubling rise in COVID-19 infections globally.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 1.38%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 added 0.32%. The Nasdaq Composite index gained 1.24% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, dropped 0.59%.
A healthy retail sales report, falling jobless claims, positive earnings surprises, and strong manufacturing data lent support to stock prices, but investor sentiment was dampened by several concerns.
Chief among these worries are a resurgence of COVID-19 infections this winter and the impact inflation may have on consumer confidence and corporate profit margins. The uncertainty surrounding the renomination of Fed Chair Powell exacerbated this unease; a decision from President Biden may come soon. Technology and other high-growth companies led the market, while some of the reopening stocks, such as travel and energy, lagged.
Retail Sales Jump
October retail sales increased 1.7%, indicating that consumers may be more confident than recent surveys have suggested. Sales of electronics, appliances, and autos were particularly strong last month.
The market cheered the report, interpreting the results as a sign that inflation has not discouraged Americans from buying the products and services they want or need. This retail sales number, however, may be overstated for two reasons. First, higher prices increase the level of sales even if consumer demand is flat. Second, spending may have been pulled forward by consumer worries over higher future prices and concerns that goods may …
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Stocks Tap the Brakes
Stocks posted small declines last week as investors digested recent stock market gains and an unexpectedly high inflation read.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.63%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 retreated 0.31%. The Nasdaq Composite index slipped 0.69% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, dropped 0.78%.
Market Takes a Pause
After moving higher on Congressional approval of a $1 trillion-plus infrastructure spending bill, stocks drifted lower as investors took a breather after a weeks-long run-up in prices. A high October inflation report on Wednesday sent bond yields higher and stock prices lower, especially technology and other high growth companies. Energy also fell.
Higher-than-expected inflation elevated investor worries that the Fed may be forced to accelerate its bond tapering schedule and hike interest rates sooner than planned. Stocks found firmer footing following the inflation-related sell-off, closing the week on a strong note, though it wasn’t sufficient to keep stocks from ending the week in the red.
Hot! Hot! Hot!
Rising prices appear to be showing no signs of moderating. The first reading on inflation was Tuesday’s release of the Producer Price Index, which saw wholesale prices rise 0.6% in October and register an 8.6% increase from 12-months ago.
A day later the Consumer Price Index came in above consensus estimates, with prices climbing 0.9% from September 2021 and …
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Fed Says Tapering Ahead
A Federal Reserve announcement on tapering, a fresh batch of corporate profits, and encouraging economic data lifted stocks to another weekly gain. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.42%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 advanced 2.00%. The Nasdaq Composite index led, tacking on 3.05%. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, added 1.58%.
Stocks Power Higher
Stocks marched higher throughout the week, lifted by a succession of positive corporate earnings surprises, optimistic forward guidance by some companies, and healthy economic data. Continued strong third-quarter profits reinforced the narrative that businesses were able to meet strong consumer demand and maintain robust profit margins, despite the headwinds of inflation and supply-chain knots.
Investors were unfazed by the Fed’s mid-week announcement that it would begin its bond purchase tapering plans, in part, because it had long been telegraphed and Fed Chair Powell’s optimistic analysis of the current state of the economy. Also cheered was the announcement of a new COVID-19 antiviral pill and a powerful rebound in job creation, driving stocks to new heights to close out the week.
The Fed Speaks
In an eagerly awaited November meeting of the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee), the Fed pulled the trigger on its plan to taper monthly bond purchases. Fed tapering will begin this month with reductions of $15 billion per month ($10 billion in Treasurys and $5 billion in mortgage-backed securities) that will end this pandemic-era policy response by July 2022.
The Fed reiterated its belief that inflation remained transitory, though conceding it had underestimated…