Despite the distraction of the administration’s incipient trade war, U.S. equities have quietly managed to grind higher over the past few weeks. The S&P 500 index climbed 1.5 percent last week for the second week in a row. And since briefly piercing its 200-day moving average on April 2, the index has risen 8.5 percent, and now sits at its highest level since February 1, up 4.8 percent on the year. During the most recent two-week stretch each of the index’s eleven sectors are positive, but it has been the healthcare and technology sectors that have led the way, followed by telecom, consumer discretionary and industrials.
That was the title of a 1970 movie that cost three times as much to make as it generated in box office revenue. It might serve as an apt analogy to the market reaction to the opening round in the U.S. trade war with China. China specific tariffs took effect on Friday, and yet stocks rose pretty much everywhere, as investors chose to focus on economic conditions in the present, rather than speculating on the longer-term implications of a trade war. For how long investors will be able to look beyond these rising trade tensions remains to be seen, but at least on the first day it was a war to which nobody came.
As the second quarter came to a close, the Federal Reserve could claim a victory, of sorts. It was finally able to achieve its target of 2 percent core inflation, for the first time in six years, with release of the Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) data for May. Being mindful of the threat of too much inflation, however, the Fed seems intent on additional future rate hikes, perhaps two more this year. Two weeks ago, Fed chair Powell said the case for continued gradual rate hikes is strong. Last week, Boston Fed president Rosengren said in a Wall Street Journal interview that he was comfortable with the “direction” of two more rate hikes this year, cautioning about the possibility of higher inflation from falling unemployment.
Another week of trade threats and promised retaliation kept investors off stride and markets adrift. The S&P 500 shed 0.9 percent, its first weekly decline in the past five. Trade jitters were even less kind to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, however. Owing to its constituents’ greater exposure to foreign trade, the Dow fell 2.0 percent last week, its third decline in the past four weeks. And only a modest bounce on Friday prevented the Dow from dropping for nine straight days.
While retirees have worked hard to save and invest for their next chapter, new research from Ameriprise Financial finds many of them aren’t tapping their nest eggs. The new study, Making Money Last, reveals only 21 percent of retirees feel confident about drawing down their assets.
Despite the distraction of everything except economic fundamentals, U.S. equities managed to deliver another week of higher prices, but only by the slimmest of margins. The S&P 500 index rose all of 0.02 percent, its fourth straight week of gains, but had to overcome major developments in monetary, trade and foreign policy to do it.