Weekly Market Update | Week 9, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • The month saw mixed economic data
  • The path of least resistance remained to the upside in February

Major US equity indices finished higher for February, and the week with the Nasdaq and small-cap Russell 2000 leading the way. But the S&P was also strong, closing above the 5000 mark for the first time on 9-Feb and setting several further all-time highs. Big tech was broadly higher, helped by another big gain from NVDA. 

Treasuries were notably weaker amid a broad repricing of Fed rate-cut expectations after hawkish takeaways from the 30-31 Jan FOMC meeting. The dollar was stronger overall with notable gains on the yen cross; the greenback was flatter against the euro. Gold finished down 0.6%. Oil was higher, with WTI settling up 3.2%.

February’s big story was the shift in market expectations for a first-rate cut out of March and into June, with the January FOMC meeting followed by weeks of Fedspeak suggesting a strong policymaker consensus for waiting for additional data to provide greater confidence inflation is sustainably moving toward the 2% target.

Chair Powell himself started this trend with an appearance on 60 Minutes, but the talking points between other Fed governors and regional-bank presidents have remained quite similar. The January FOMC minutes did not contain anything to refute the view of later cuts, but also failed to add much about the Fed’s QT plans (though analysts expect plans to be discussed in March). Notably, market expectations have coalesced around three 25bp rate cuts this year, matching the Fed’s December SEP guidance.

The Fed’s preference for greater confidence was fleshed out in a month that saw mixed economic releases, or at least reports that suggested the path ahead could be bumpy. The big story was a January CPI report that came in hotter on both headline and core measures.

While this initially raised some fears of resurgent inflation within a growing economy, analysts theorized that some of the rise could be attributed to seasonal effects (note that the 29-Feb PCE report for January was right in line with expectations).

February’s market also processed the release of higher-than-forecast growth in nonfarm payrolls but a steeper-than-expected decline in January retail sales. Consumer sentiment readings dipped, but remained near recent highs.

Despite some defensive tone in the last week of the month, the path of least resistance remained to the upside in February, with several analysts even raising their 2024 S&P price targets in the past week.

Rate cuts have been pushed out, but are still broadly expected. The data continue to support the disinflation narrative, though that is unlikely to manifest as a straight line. Corporate earnings have been resilient and consumer spending remains robust.

AI remains a high-profile tailwind for equities, despite some missteps by GOOGL’s (1.2%) Gemini this month. There are also positive takes on small-cap outperformance, rising focus on corporate operational-efficiency pushes, M&A headlines, healthy buyback authorizations, and the “dry powder” dynamic of cash coming off the sidelines.

All that said, some see signs for caution. Fedspeak looking for greater confidence has also flagged the risks of premature easing, while robust economic growth could undermine the case for broad rate cuts.

While there has been no notable upward surge in jobless claims, the steady drumbeat of corporate layoff notices has been difficult to ignore. There is a lot of focus on very narrow market leadership. Treasury supply concerns remain in play. And stretched sentiment and positioning indicators continue to garner attention.

An extended Q4 earnings season gradually moved toward its drawn-out close, with the blended earnings growth rate for S&P constituents moving near 4% (vs the 1.5% expected at the end of that quarter).

  • Among the larger reporters, AAPL (2.0%) EPS, revenue, and GM were all ahead though guidance underwhelmed and exacerbated scrutiny around competitive pressures. 
  • NVDA +28.7% beat and guided above against very high expectations, with the Street broadly positive on AI factors. 
  • AMZN +13.9% beat with some focus on AWS reacceleration, retail margin upside, and growth in advertising. 
  • META +25.6% guidance was a bright spot, with takeaways focused on AI tailwinds, engagement, and capital return (a $50B buyback and its first dividend). 
  • BRK.B +6.7% beat though the market was focused on Buffett’s record cash pile and observation that there is a lack of opportunities. 
  • LLY +16.7% highlighted strong results in Mounjaro and Jardiance. 
  • WMT +6.4% EPS, sales, and comp growth beat consensus with some focus on grocery share gains, lower markdowns, and e-commerce strength. 
  • HD +7.8% comp decline was in line with consensus, and guidance was seen as potentially conservative. 
  • MRK +5.3% was boosted by strong Keytruda results (with increased global uptake in earlier-stage indications).

Fixed Income

Yield Curve

Dec FOMC Statement      Balance Sheet Reduction Plan       Credit, Liquidity and Balance Sheet    Federal Reserve Dot Plots  

Treasury.gov yields    FOMC Policy Normalization Statement     Longer- Run Goals Jan 2022

Foreign Exchange Market

Energy Complex 

The Baker Hughes rig count was up 3 this week. There are 629 oil and gas rigs operating in the US – Down 120 from last year.

Metals Complex 

Employment Picture 

Weekly Unemployment Claims – Released Thursday 2/29/2024 – In the week ending February 24, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 215,000 an increase of 13,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The 4-week moving average was 212,500 a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week’s revised average.

January Jobs Report –  BLS Summary – Released 2/2/2024 –  The US Economyadded 353k nonfarm jobs in January and the Unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7%. Average hourly earnings increased 19 cents to $34.55.  Hiring highlights include +74k Professional and Business Services, +70k Healthcare, and +45k Retail Trade.

  • Average hourly earnings increased 19 cents/0.6% to $34.55.
  • U3 unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7%. U6 unemployment rate increased 0.1% to 7.2%.
  • The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 62.5%.
  • Average work week decreased 0.2 to 34.1 hours.

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.

Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey JOLTS – Released 1/30/2024 – The number of job openings changed little at 9.0 million on the last business day of December, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Over the month the number of hires and total separations was little changed 5.6 million and 5.4 million, respectively. Within separations, quits (3.4 million) and discharges (1.6 million) changed little.

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

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.

Chicago PMI – Released 2/29/2024 – Chicago PMI remained in contraction territory in February declining to 44.0 points down from 46.0 points in January. The latest reading indicated that Chicago’s economic activity contracted for the third consecutive month in February, and at the fastest rate in seven months.

Personal Income – Released 2/29/2024 – Personal income increased $233.7 billion (1.0 percent at a monthly rate) in January. Disposable personal income (DPI) increased $67.6 billion (0.3 percent). Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $43.9 billion (0.2 percent).

Second Estimate of 4th Quarter 2023 GDP – Released 2/28/2024 – Real gross domestic product (GDP) surpassed expectations and increased at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 4.9 percent. The GDP “second” estimate is based on source data that are more complete than that released in the “advance” estimate. The update primarily reflected a downward revision to private inventory investment that was partly offset by upward revisions to state and local government spending and consumer spending. The increase in real GDP reflected increases in consumer spending, exports, state and local government spending, nonresidential fixed investment, federal government spending, private inventory investment, and residential fixed investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

Durable Goods Released 2/27/2024 – New orders for manufactured durable goods in January, down three of the last four months, decreased $18.0 billion or 6.1 percent to $276.7 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau announced today. This followed a 0.3 percent December decrease. Excluding transportation, new orders decreased 0.3 percent. Excluding defense, new orders decreased 7.3 percent. Transportation equipment, also down three of the last four months, led the decrease, $17.4 billion or 16.2 percent to $89.8 billion.

Consumer Confidence – Released 2/27/2024 – Consumer Confidence decreased in February, down to 106.7 from 110.9 in January. Expectations decreased from 81.5 to 79.8. February’s decrease in consumer confidence interrupted a three-month rise, reflecting persistent uncertainty about the US economy.

New Residential Sales  – Released 2/26/2024 – Sales of new single‐family houses in January 2024 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 661,000, according to estimates released jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  This is 1.5 percent above the revised December rate of 651,000 and is 1.8 percent above the January 2023 estimate of 649,000. The median sales price of new houses sold in January 2024 was $420,700.  The average sales price was $534,300.  At the end of January, the seasonally adjusted estimate of new homes for sale was 456,000, a supply of 8.3 months at the current sales rate.

Recent Economic Data – Blue Links bring you to data source

Existing Home Sales – Released 2/22/2024 – The Existing home sales increased in January following a decrease in December. Existing home sales in January increased 3.1% from December but fell 1.7% year over year. Existing home sales increased to 4.00 million in January seasonally adjusted. The median price of existing homes for sale increased to a record high of $379,100.

Housing Starts– Released 2/16/2024 – January housing starts came in at 1,331,000, 14.8% below the December estimate and is 0.7% below the January 2023 rate. Building permits were 1.5% below the December rate at $1,493,000 but 8.6% above the January 2023 rate.

Producer Price Index – Released 2/16/2024  The Producer Price Index for final demand increased 0.3 percent in January, seasonally adjusted. Final demand decreased 0.1 percent in December. On an unadjusted basis, the index for final demand moved up 0.9 percent for the 12 months ended in January.

Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization – Released 2/15/2024 – Industrial production decreased 0.1% in January following no change in December. Manufacturing decreased 0.5%. Utilities output increased 6.0%. Mining decreased 2.3%. Capacity utilization declined 0.2% in January, a rate that is 1.1 percent below its long-run average.

Retail Sales– Released 2/15/2024 – Headline retail sales decreased 0.8% in January and are up 0.6% above January 2023.

Consumer Price Index – Released 2/13/2024  The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 0.3 percent in January on a seasonally adjusted basis, after increasing 0.2 percent in December. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 3.1 percent before seasonal adjustment.

U.S. Trade Balance – Released 2/7/2024 –  The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that the goods and services deficit was $62.2 billion in December, up $0.3 billion from $61.9 billion in November. December exports were $258.2 billion, $3.9 billion more than November exports. December imports were $320.4 billion, $4.2 billion more than November imports. The December increase in the goods and services deficit reflected an increase in the goods deficit of $0.7 billion to $89.1 billion and an increase in the services surplus of $0.4 billion to $26.9 billion.

Consumer Credit – Released 2/7/2024  Consumer credit increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.4 percent in December. Revolving credit increased at an annual rate of 8.4 percent, while nonrevolving credit increased at an annual rate of 0.4 percent.

PMI Non-Manufacturing Index – Released 2/5/2024 – Economic activity in the services sector expanded in January for the thirteenth consecutive month as the Services PMI® registered 53.4 percent, 2.9 percentage points higher than December’s reading of 50.5 percent.

US Light Vehicle SalesReleased 2/2/2024 – U.S. light vehicle sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 14.999 million units in January.

Next week we get data on Services PMI, Consumer Credit, the U.S. Trade Balance, JOLTS, and the February 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