Weekly Market Commentary – 3/8/2024

-Darren Leavitt, CFA

Financial markets endured a week of consolidation as investors dissected a full economic calendar and awaited more cues from the leaders of the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve.  ECB President Lagarde and Fed Chairman Powell echoed each other about the need for more data before the central banks would cut rates.  However, both leaders left the door open and expect rate cuts later in the year.  A handful of fourth-quarter earnings reports were highlighted by retailers- Costco and Target, Semiconductor stock Broadcom, and Cybersecurity software company Crowd Strike.

The S&P 500 lost 0.3%, the Dow fell by 0.9%, the NASDAQ shed 1.2%, and the Russell 2000 gained 0.3%.  US Treasuries gained across the curve as interest rates fell for a second week.  The 2-year yield fell by four basis points to 4.49%, while the 10-year yield declined by nine basis points to 4.09%.  Oil prices fell 2.4% or $1.92 to $78.05 a barrel. Gold prices increased by 4.2% to set an all-time high, closing at $2185.60 an Oz.  Copper prices rose by $0.03 to close at $3.89 per Lb.  Bitcoin traded north of 70k per token, also hitting a new all-time high.  The US Dollar index fell by 1.1% over the week, closing at 102.71.

An Employment Situation Report fostered a soft landing narrative that saw massive downside revisions to the January figures, an uptick in the Unemployment rate, and a lighter increase in average hourly earnings.  Non-farm payrolls came in at a robust 275k versus the consensus estimate of 195K.  The January reading was revised downward from 353k to 229k.  Similarly, Private Payrolls came in higher than expected at 223k, and the prior month’s estimate was revised to 177k from 317k.  The Unemployment rate ticked to 3.9%, which was higher than the anticipated rate of 3.7%.  Average Hourly Earnings increased by 0.1% on a month-over-month basis, which was less than the expected 0.3% increase. The Average Workweek ticked a bit higher to 34.2 from the prior reading of 34.1.  Initial Jobless claims for the week remained unchanged at 217k, while Continuing Claims increased by 8k to 1.96m.  ISM Non-Manufacturing showed that services remained in an expansionary mode.  However, the reading of 52.6% was less than the prior reading of 53.4%.  The second reading for fourth-quarter productivity came in at 3.2%, while unit labor cost fell to 0.4% from 0.6%.

This week’s economic calendar will also be quite busy. Investors will examine February Consumer and Producer prices. We will also get a look at Retail Sales figures and Industrial production. The Treasury will also auction $117 billion in 3, 10, and 30-year paper.

Investment advisory services offered through Foundations Investment Advisors, LLC (“FIA”), an SEC registered investment adviser. FIA’s Darren Leavitt authors this commentary which may include information and statistical data obtained from and/or prepared by third party sources that FIA deems reliable but in no way does FIA guarantee the accuracy or completeness.  All such third party information and statistical data contained herein is subject to change without notice.  Nothing herein constitutes legal, tax or investment advice or any recommendation that any security, portfolio of securities, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person.  Personal investment advice can only be rendered after the engagement of FIA for services, execution of required documentation, including receipt of required disclosures.  All investments involve risk and past performance is no guarantee of future results. For registration information on FIA, please go to https://adviserinfo.sec.gov/ and search by our firm name or by our CRD #175083. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where FIA and its representatives are properly licensed or exempted.