Stocks’ recovery from the February correction was derailed last week, after new Fed Chair Powell gave an upbeat assessment of the economy in testimony before Congress, followed by the administration unexpectedly announcing the imposition of across the board import tariffs on steel and aluminum. On the week, the S&P 500 index fell 2 percent, with cyclical groups getting hammered, led by materials, down 3.8 percent, and industrials, which fell 3.3 percent. Only telecom managed to squeeze out a fractional gain.
It was just two weeks ago that a number of year-end stock market forecasts were being revised upward, seduced by the siren song of tax reform and the giddy surge higher to start the year. But after the sharp reversal of the past two weeks, there is undoubtedly some regret in the haste to revise expectations higher.
Stocks continued their surge higher last week. The S&P 500 rose another 2.2 percent, making it four straight weeks of gains and a 7.5 percent return to start the year. Giving a big boost to multinationals was the ongoing weakness in the dollar. The DXY index fell 1.7 percent last week in a move that was exacerbated by comments from Treasury Secretary Mnuchin at the World Economic Forum in Davos suggesting a weak dollar policy from the administration in Washington. Despite subsequent pushback from the President, the dollar index finished the week at its lowest level in three years. For the year, the DXY is down 3.4 percent, after a 10 percent decline last year.