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Current Market Observations

April 30, 2024 | Weekly Commentary

Amidst a flurry of earnings reports, the release of the first-quarter GDP, and updates on inflation, investors endured a week of volatility. Despite this, stocks rebounded with tech sector strength, buoyed by robust corporate profits and steady economic growth, albeit at a slower pace. For the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.7%, the S&P 500 Index rose 2.7%, and the NASDAQ rose 4.2%. Information technology was the best-performing sector for the week (+5.1%), while energy was the worst-performing sector (+0.7%).  This week, 37% of S&P 500 companies reported quarterly earnings, including Magnificent Seven tech stocks, including Google, Meta (Facebook), Microsoft, and Tesla. About one-third of the 229 companies reported exceeded sales expectations, while two-thirds beat earnings per share (EPS) estimates, with an average surprise of 9%. GDP growth slowdown tempered by resilient domestic demand and stagnant inflation are likely influencing the Fed’s cautious stance. Yields of U.S. government bonds rose for the fourth week in a row. The 10-year U.S. Treasury closed the week at 4.67%, five basis points higher than the previous week.

U.S. & Global Economy  

The resilience of the U.S. economy in the face of much higher interest rates has been one of the biggest surprises of the past two years. As recently as last year, most economists were expecting a recession, and we have seen anything but. See Chart 1 below from Valley National Financial Advisors and YCharts, which shows three common recession indicators: The Sahm Rule, The Misery Index, and the Probability of a U.S. Recession. While we understand it is a busy chart, the message is simple: the data is not telling us we are nearing a recession. The data is screaming growth ahead. 

The U.S. economy continues to grow healthy despite a dramatic rise in the Fed Funds Rate to its current range of 5.25% to 5.50%, a 23-year high. We understand the reasons for the recent interest rate hikes; inflation was over 9%, but it has fallen to just over 3%. The last move towards the Fed’s target of 2% is taking a bit longer than some expected. Still, the markets thus far have been correct in seeing the real message: growth is continuing, inflation is coming down, and corporate earnings have been steady 

While the U.S. is clearly growing at a respectable clip, global growth is continuing elsewhere as well. According to the A.P. News, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) upgraded 2024’s global outlook, saying the world is headed toward the elusive “soft landing.” The IMF predicts a 3.2% global expansion this year and sees global inflation falling to 5.9% in 2024, down from 6.8% in 2023. We expect growth to continue at a measured pace and inflation to continue to fall at the same measured pace.  

Policy and Politics 

Local, national, and global unrest around wars and politics is stoking fear and uncertainty, which can permeate the markets. But the data – earnings, employment, housing – tells another story –expansion and growth. College campus unrest also continues throughout the U.S., but we have seen this story before, and with the school year coming to an end soon and students leaving campus, it is likely that these protests will dwindle down as well. However, the wars and unrest around the world will continue throughout the summer, and with the presidential election this fall, that will be anything but easy on the U.S. 

Economic Numbers to Watch This Week 

  • Target Fed Funds Rate announced, current 5.50% 
  • U.S. Job Openings Non-farm for March ‘24, prior 8.756M 
  • U.S. Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance for the Week of April 27, 2024, prior 207,000.
  • U.S. Labor Force Participation Rate for April 2024, prior to 62.7% 
  • U.S. Unemployment Rate for April 2024, prior to 3.8% 

As markets gear up for another wave of quarterly earnings releases, the week ahead holds some key events, including a U.S. Federal Reserve policy meeting and the eagerly awaited April jobs report. Investors are curious to see if April’s job growth matches March’s surprisingly strong increase. Against the backdrop of ongoing market ups and downs driven by inflation fears and economic data swings, tech stocks are lending some strength to the market, even as the broader economy shows signs of cooling off. All eyes will be on Apple and Amazon when they report their quarterly earnings this week. Please reach out to your advisor at Valley National Financial Advisors with any questions.