Stocks once again succumbed to the rising trade tension between the U.S. and China, as the S&P 500 index fell 1.4 percent last week, with equal parts of the selling pressure coming at the start and at the end of the week on Monday and Friday. It was the third weekly decline in the last four, and leaves the index lower on the year by 2.6 percent. From its January 26 peak, the index is now lower by 9.3 percent. The good news is that the uptrend remains intact, as the index closed on Friday at 2604, just above its 200-day moving average at 2593, after having tested it several times during the week. Nevertheless, not even some soothing comments on Friday from Fed Chair Powell regarding the pace of rate hikes were enough to shift the focus away from trade.
The much anticipated February jobs report was about as good as it gets. Strong growth with moderating wage pressure was just the tonic equity markets needed to set aside fears of rising inflation and a more aggressive Fed. Stocks surged, rising 1.7 percent following the report on Friday. These gains came after investors breathed something of a sigh of relief on Thursday, after details of the administration’s tariff proposal were not as belligerent as anticipated, exempting some countries and leaving room for others to be excluded as well. For the week overall, the S&P 500 index climbed a solid 3.5 percent.