Weekly Market Update | Week 13, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Friday marked the 25th anniversary of the Dow Jones closing above 10000 for the first time ever.
  • Economic updates continued to support the soft- / no-landing narrative

Friday marked the 25th anniversary of the Dow Jones closing above 10,000 for the first time ever. Including the “lost decade” of 2000 – 2009, the 25 year return is a little over 300%.

US equities were higher in March, with the major indices all gaining. The S&P 500 logged its fifth straight monthly increase, finishing higher for the 10th month of the past 13 and setting multiple fresh record highs along the way. Notably, the month was marked by an improvement in breadth, with the equal-weight S&P besting the official index (RSP +4.0%). Small-caps also stood out, with the Russell 2000 rising for the fourth month of the past five.

Big tech was mostly higher, with NVDA +14.2% and GOOGL +8.9% the notable gainers; TSLA (12.9%) was a drag. Other outperformers included energy, banks, insurers, chemicals, machinery, homebuilders, aluminum, food, grocers, paper/packaging, and utilities. Underperformers included EVs, road/rail, exchanges, software, apparel, QSRs, and China tech. 

Treasuries were mostly firmer with yields pulling back across most maturities despite a pre-FOMC run higher. Most of the month’s Treasury note and bond auctions, some at record amounts, were well received. The dollar was mixed, with a bit of weakness on the euro and sterling crosses but some strength vs the yen. Gold was up 8.9%, its best month since July 2020, and set a new record close at $2,238.40/oz. WTI crude settled up 6.3% in its third consecutive monthly gain.

The month’s big event was the 20-21 March FOMC meeting, which held rates steady (as expected). In the updated projections, the median policymaker forecast for 2024 continued to see three rate cuts, with previews having seen a nearly even chance that might get downgraded to two in the wake of some hotter inflation readings to start the year.

In the end, Chair Powell’s commentary leaned toward the dovish, arguing that recent data didn’t fundamentally change the disinflation narrative. Note that earlier in the month, Powell had testified before Congress that the FOMC was likely “not far” from having the confidence to cut.

Fedspeak following the meeting continued to reflect some difference of opinion, with Waller arguing the risk of waiting may be greater than the risk of cutting too soon while Goolsbee said he remains in the three-cut camp for 2024. The market continues to price a first cut for June, and expects some update on balance-sheet policy at the May FOMC meeting.

Economic updates continued to support the soft-/no-landing narrative, though perhaps with some asterisks. February headline CPI was largely in line, with some focus on deceleration in supercore and core services. However, February PPI printed at its highest level since September, with core PPI topping consensus as well.

The personal consumption expenditures index (PCE)excluding food and energy increased 2.8% on a 12-month basis and was up 0.3% from a month ago. Both numbers matched the Dow Jones estimates. Elsewhere, February nonfarm payrolls came in at 275K, firmly ahead of the 200K consensus, though a big downward revision to January kept the theme of a cooling labor market alive. The February retail sales report was weaker across the board, with downward revisions to prior months suggesting a flagging consumer impulse.

Overall, bulls continued to have the upper hand in the broad market debate. The disinflation narrative remains firmly in place, and the final March UMich survey showed further declines in inflation expectations. The market seems to have fully digested a Fed easing cycle beginning in June.

Corporate earnings remain resilient. Analysts this month continued to upgrade their 2024 S&P targets. IPOs and M&A headlines for the month were generally well received. AI remained a key tailwind for the market, with NVDA holding its GPU Technology Conference (GTC). And there was a lot of attention on widening market breadth; note that 77% of S&P constituents at month end were above their 200-day moving averages.

That said, there are multiple cautionary talking points in evidence. A Fed rate cut in June is not a done deal, and there will be three CPI reports for the FOMC to process before that meeting. Far more S&P companies have issued negative guidance for Q1 EPS than positive. The market may be entering a seasonally weaker inflow period, and the corporate buyback tailwind may be fading. And the market’s strong YTD run has continued to generate overbought concerns.

Fixed Income

Yield Curve

March FOMC Statement   January Minutes   Credit, Liquidity and Balance Sheet    Federal Reserve Dot Plots

Treasury.gov yields    FOMC Policy Normalization Statement     Longer- Run Goals Jan 2024

Foreign Exchange Market

Energy Complex 

The Baker Hughes rig count was down 3 this week. There are 621 oil and gas rigs operating in the US – Down 134 from last year.

Metals Complex 

Employment Picture 

Weekly Unemployment Claims – Released Thursday 3/28/2024 – In the week ending March 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 210,000 a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The 4-week moving average was 211,000 a decrease of 750 from the previous week’s revised average.

February Jobs Report –  BLS Summary – Released 3/8/2024 –  The US economy added 275k nonfarm jobs in February and the Unemployment rate increased 0.2% to 3.9%. Average hourly earnings increased 5 cents to $34.57.  Hiring highlights include +67k Healthcare, +52 Government, and +24k Social Assistance .

  • Average hourly earnings increased 5 cents/0.1% to $34.57.
  • U3 unemployment rate increased 0.2% to 3.9%. U6 unemployment rate increased 0.1% to 7.3%.
  • The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 62.5%.
  • Average work week increased 0.1 to 34.3 hours.

Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey JOLTS – Released 3/6/2024 – The number of job openings changed little at 8.9 million on the last business day of January, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Over the month the number of hires and total separations was little changed 5.7 million and 5.3 million, respectively. Within separations, quits (3.4 million) and discharges (1.6 million) changed little.

Employment Cost Index – Released 1/31/2024 – Compensation costs for civilian workers increased 0.9% for the 3-month period ending in December 2023. The 12-month period ending in December 2023 saw compensation costs increase by 4.2. The 12-month period ending December 2022 increased 5.1%. Wages and salaries increased 4.3 percent over the 12-month December 2023 and increased 5.1 percent for the 12-month period ending in December 2022. Benefit costs increased 3.8 percent over the 12-month period ending December 2023 and increased 4.9 percent for the 12-month period ending in December 2022. This report is published quarterly.

This Week’s Economic Data- Blue links take you to data source

Chicago PMI – Released 3/29/2024 – Chicago PMI remained in contraction territory in March declining to 41.4 points down from 44.0 points in February. The latest reading indicated that Chicago’s economic activity contracted for the fourth consecutive month in March, and the lowest level in the past ten months.

Personal Income – Released 3/29/2024 – Personal income increased $66.5 billion (0.3 percent at a monthly rate) in February. Disposable personal income (DPI) increased $50.3 billion (0.2 percent). Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $145.5 billion (0.8 percent).

Third Estimate of 4th Quarter 2023 GDP – Released 3/28/2024 – Real gross domestic product (GDP) surpassed expectations and increased at an annual rate of 3.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to the “third” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 4.9 percent. The GDP “third” estimate is based on source data that are more complete than that released in the “second” and “advance” estimates. The update primarily reflected upward revisions to consumer spending and nonresidential fixed investment that were partly offset by a downward revision to private inventory investment. The increase in real GDP primarily reflected increases in consumer spending, state and local government spending, exports, nonresidential fixed investment, federal government spending, and residential fixed investment that were partly offset by a decrease in private inventory investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

Durable Goods – Released 3/26/2024 – New orders for manufactured durable goods in February, up following two months of decline, increased $3.7 billion or 1.4 percent to $277.9 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau announced today. This followed a 6.9 percent January decrease. Excluding transportation, new orders increased 0.5 percent. Excluding defense, new orders increased 2.2 percent. Transportation equipment, also up following two months of decline, led the increase, $2.9 billion or 3.3 percent to $90.4 billion.

Consumer Confidence – Released 3/26/2024 – Consumer Confidence decreased in March, essentially unchanged from February. Expectations decreased from 76.3 to 73.8. Consumers’ assessment of the present situation improved in March, but they also became more pessimistic about the future. Consumers remained concerned with elevated price levels especially in concerns about food and gas prices, but in general complaints about gas prices have been trending downward. Recession fears continued to trend downward, but consumers expressed more concern about the US political environment compared to prior months.

New Residential Sales  – Released 3/25/2024 – Sales of new single‐family houses in February 2024 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 662,000, according to estimates released jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  This is 0.3 percent below the revised January rate of 664,000 but is 5.9 percent above the February 2023 estimate of 625,000. The median sales price of new houses sold in February 2024 was $400,500.  The average sales price was $485,000.  At the end of February, the seasonally adjusted estimate of new homes for sale was 463,000, a supply of 8.4 months at the current sales rate.

Recent Economic Data – Blue Links bring you to data source

Existing Home Sales Released 3/21/2024 – Existing home sales in February increased 9.5% from January but fell 3.3% year over year. Existing home sales increased to 4.38 million in February seasonally adjusted. The median price of existing homes for sale increased to a record high of $384,500.

Housing Starts Released 3/19/2024 – February housing starts came in at 1,521,000, 10.7% above the January estimate and is 5.9% above the February 2023 rate. Building permits were 1.9% above the January rate at $1,518,000 and 2.4% above the February 2023 rate.

Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization – Released 3/15/2024 – Industrial production increased 0.1% in February following a 0.5% decline in January. Manufacturing increased 0.8%. Utilities output decreased 7.5%. Mining increased 2.2%. Capacity utilization was unchanged at 78.3% in February, a rate that is 1.3% below its long-run average.

Producer Price Index – Released 3/14/2024  The Producer Price Index for final demand increased 0.6 percent in February, seasonally adjusted. Final demand increased 0.3 percent in January. On an unadjusted basis, the index for final demand moved up 1.6 percent for the 12 months ended in February.

Retail Sales– Released 3/14/2024 – Headline retail sales increased 0.6% in February and are up 1.5% above February 2023.

Consumer Price Index – Released 3/12/2024  The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 0.4 percent in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, after increasing 0.3 percent in January. Over the last 12 months, the all-items index increased 3.2 percent before seasonal adjustment.

U.S. Trade Balance – Released 3/7/2024 –  The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that the goods and services deficit was $67.4 billion in January, up $3.3 billion from $64.2 billion in December. January exports were $257.2 billion, $0.3 billion more than December exports. January imports were $324.6 billion, $3.6 billion more than December imports. The January increase in the goods and services deficit reflected an increase in the goods deficit of $3.0 billion to $91.6 billion and a decrease in the services surplus of $0.3 billion to $24.2 billion.

Consumer Credit – Released 3/7/2024  Consumer credit increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.7 percent in January. Revolving credit increased at an annual rate of 7.6 percent, while nonrevolving credit increased at an annual rate of 3.6 percent.

PMI Non-Manufacturing Index – Released 3/5/2024 – Economic activity in the services sector expanded in February for the 14th consecutive month as the Services PMI® registered 52.6 percent, 0.8 percentage points lower than January’s reading of 53.4 percent.

U.S. Construction Spending– Released 3/1/2024 – Construction spending during January 2024 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $2,102.4 billion, 0.2 percent below the revised December estimate of $2,105.8 billion. The January figure is 11.7 percent above the January 2023 estimate of $1,882.2 billion.

PMI Manufacturing Index – Released 3/1/2024 – The February Manufacturing PMI registered 47.8 percent, down 1.3 percent from January. The manufacturing sector continued in contraction for the 16th consecutive month following one unchanged month and 28 months of growth prior to that. The New Orders Index moved back into contraction territory at 49.2 percent, 3.3 percentage points lower than the figure of 52.5 percent recorded in January. The Production Index reading of 48.4 percent is a 2.0-percentage point decrease compared to January’s figure of 50.4 percent.

US Light Vehicle SalesReleased 2/29/2024 – U.S. light vehicle sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 14.976 million units in January.

Next week we get data on Manufacturing PMI, U.S. Construction Spending, Services PMI, U.S. Trade Balance, Consumer Credit, JOLTS, and the March Jobs Report.


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Data Sources: 

Conference Board Economic Indicators   Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)   Congressional Budget Office (CBO)     U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)    Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED Charts)

CME Fed Watch   U.S. Treasury – Yields   U.S. Census Bureau    Institute for Supply Management (ISM)    Weekly DOL Employment Data    BLS Monthly Jobs Report    JOLTS      All capital in one visualization 2020

US Energy Admn (EIA)   BLS Consumer Price Index CPI      BLS Producer Price Index PPIAtlanta Fed GDPNOW    NY Fed Nowcast GDP     US Census Bureau Housing Starts   U.S. Energy Admn

Consumer Credit  USCB Retail Sales   Construction Spending      Federal Reserve Dot Plots 2017   NY Empire Index    Philadelphia Federal Reserve   P/E Ratio Data -Yardeni Research

Technical Analysis Info: Koyfin.com  StockCharts.com – Financial Charts    Exponential vs Simple Moving Average

Other links: 1973 Arab Oil Embargo    Hunt Brothers Silver    Asian Contagion   Long-Term Capital bailout