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The major US equity benchmarks retreated for the week amid heightened fears of conflict in the Middle East and some signs of persistent inflation pressures that pushed long-term Treasury yields higher. Large-caps held up better than small-caps, with the Russell 2000 Index suffering its biggest daily decline in almost two months on Wednesday. Growth stocks fared better than value shares. Wednesday morning’s release of the US CPI data, which came in higher than expected, weighed on investors’ sentiment. Overall inflation rose 3.5% yoy, its biggest gain since September. The “supercore” inflation (services prices excl. energy and housing costs) jumped 4.8% yoy, substantially higher than expectations and its biggest increase in 10 months.

The US large-cap indexes pulled back from record highs, as the S&P 500 recorded its worst week since the start of the year (and the Dow the worst YTD). On the week, all the majors were red with Small Caps and The Dow being the worst performers. The market’s performance also narrowed again, with growth stocks faring better than value shares. Energy stocks soared this week (to a record high) - the only sector to end green - while Healthcare and Real Estate lagged. VIX saw its biggest weekly surge since August 2023. Stocks moved lower following the release of the March ISM manufacturing reading on Monday, which came in well above expectations and indicated expansion—if barely—for the first time in 16 months. The Friday US jobs report showed that employers added 303,000 jobs in March, well above expectations.

The major equity indexes advanced over the shortened trading week to end a quarter of strong gains. The S&P 500 Index recorded new closing and intraday highs to end the week. The market’s advance was notably broad, with an equal-weighted version of the S&P 500 Index gaining 1.64%, well ahead of the 0.39% increase in the S&P 500. Small-caps also easily outperformed large-caps. market activity was generally subdued ahead of the holiday weekend. US economic data were mixed. Durable goods orders ex- defense & aircraft rose a solid 0.7%, much more than anticipated. New home sales fell unexpectedly in February. Consumer confidence declined slightly in March, defying consensus expectations for an increase.

Stocks moved higher for the week, pushing the S&P 500 Index and the Nasdaq Composite to new records, as investors welcomed news that the Fed is still anticipating three interest rate cuts later in the year. A late rise helped NVIDIA reach a record high on Friday and lift the company’s market cap near USD 2.4 trillion. The week’s macro data arguably supported hopes that the economy was continuing to expand without reigniting inflation pressures. February existing home sales surprised most observers by jumping 9.5%. The news from the Fed helped drive a decline in longer-term Treasury yields over the week.

US stocks were mostly lower for the week, as investors weighed upside surprises in inflation data and signs of moderating consumer spending. The Dow Jones Industrial Average held up better than other indices and reached a record high on Wednesday before falling back to end the week. Energy shares outperformed on the back of higher oil prices, while technology shares lagged due to weakness in NVIDIA and other chipmakers. On the macro side, US retail sales rose 0.6% in February, missing  expectations. The US CPI rose 0.4% in February, in line with consensus expectations, but core prices (less food and energy) rose a tick more than expected, also by 0.4%. The PPI rose 0.6% MoM in February, roughly double consensus estimates and the most in six months.

Growing hopes that the Federal Reserve might begin cutting interest rates sooner rather than later appeared to help bring the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite indices to new record intraday highs before pulling back late Friday. Small-cap and value shares outperformed, while mega-cap tech shares lagged due in part to a decline in Apple following reports about slowing iPhone sales in China. Notably, Danish pharmaceuticals company Novo Nordisk displaced Tesla on Thursday as the 12th biggest public company by market capitalization. On the macro side, Friday’s US jobs report showed that employers added 275,000 jobs in February, more than consensus forecasts, but January’s gain was revised significantly lower, from 353,000 to 229,000.

The Nasdaq Composite rose to an all-time high Friday, surpassing its 2021 record while the S&P 500 closed above 5100 for the first time. The month also closed a strong February, with the S&P 500 marking its strongest beginning two months of the year since 2019. The week’s gains were also broad-based, with an equal-weighted version of the S&P 500 Index modestly outperforming its capitalization version. Thursday’s release of the PCE price index was a disappointment as core prices rose by 3.9%, above expectations of around 3.7%. The 12 Fed policymakers scheduled to deliver speeches over the week all seemed to echo the recent narrative that they were in no rush to cut interest rates. But on Friday, a disappointing ISM Manufacturing index (back to 47.8) and Fed Governor Waller indication that the Fed might be willing to implement a new “Operation Twist” pushed bond yields lower and gold prices higher.

The S&P 500 Index hit new intraday highs, as did the Nasdaq Composite Index, which posted its biggest daily gain in about a year on Thursday, when NVIDIA added a record USD 277 billion to its market capitalization. The chipmaker reported strong quarterly revenue and earnings that topped Wall Street estimates. The pan-European STOXX Europe 600 Index climbed to a record level, ending the week 1.15% higher. Japanese equities ended Thursday at a new all-time high, with the Nikkei 225 Index breaking the previous record set more than 30 years ago in 1989. Chinese equities rallied as recovery hopes rose following buoyant holiday spending during the prior week’s Lunar New Year holiday. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 4.85%.

Some favorable earnings surprises balanced against discouraging inflation data left the major US equities indices mixed, with the S&P 500 Index recording its first weekly decline since the start of the year. The declines were concentrated in large-cap growth stocks, however, with an equally weighted version of the S&P 500 reaching a record intraday high on Thursday. Investors digested several upside inflation surprises during the week. On Tuesday, stocks sold off after US CPI data, up 0.3% MoM in January (vs. 0.2% expected). Core CPI rose 0.4% MoM, up 3.9% yoy, nearly double the Fed’s 2.0% target. Stock fell again on Friday  as PPI increased 0.3% in January—the most in five months—after falling 0.1% in December. Core prices rose 0.5%, well above expectations of around 0.1%. Stagflation fears reappeared on Thursday as retail sales plummeted 0.8% in January.

Most of the major US #equity indexes moved higher over the week, with the S&P 500 Index reaching new highs and breaching the 5,000 threshold for the first time. The advance remained relatively narrow, however, with an equally weighted version of the index significantly trailing the standard market-weighted version for the fourth time in five weeks. #Nvidia soared and is now worth as much as the entire Chinese stock market (represented by the H shares of the Hong Kong stock market). Market sentiment was helped by the solid reception given to the U.S. Treasury Department’s record $42 billion auction of 10-year notes. Shares in New York Community Bank plunged after the lender reported weak results in the wake of its acquisition of failed Signature Bank during early 2023’s regional banking turmoil.

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