Week In Review: Bulls Bounce Back, Nasdaq Navigates to New Records
U.S. equities rallied this week, more than reclaiming last week's losses, as investors navigated their way through a host of happenings, including a battle over tariffs in Washington, the latest European Central Bank policy meeting, and the release of the Employment Situation Report for February. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite led the charge with a weekly gain of 4.2%, closing Friday at a new all-time high, while the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 3.5% and 3.3%, respectively.
The tariff saga continued this week as some congressional Republicans and officials within the White House urged President Trump to reconsider the duties on steel and aluminum imports that he proposed last week, fearing that they could cause a trade war. The president refused to back down though, leading to the resignation of his top economic advisor Gary Cohn on Tuesday.
Mr. Trump signed a proclamation to implement the tariffs on Thursday afternoon, but, to the market's delight, exempted Canada and Mexico. The president also left open the possibility of exemptions for other countries depending on their willingness to renegotiate trade deals. The tariffs will take effect on March 23.
Overseas, the European Central Bank left its key policy rates unchanged on Thursday, as expected, and removed from its policy statement a promise to increase its bond purchases if needed. The latter move was seen as a small step towards normalization following years of ultra-accommodative policy. In addition, the ECB reaffirmed that its net asset purchases will remain at a monthly pace of EUR30 billion until the end of September 2018, or beyond, if necessary.
In Asia, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday extended an invitation to meet with President Trump, which Mr. Trump accepted. The summit, which will reportedly take place by the end of May, would mark the first face-to-face meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a sitting North Korean leader.
The Employment Situation Report for February was released on Friday morning, showing robust job growth and a deceleration in the year-over-year change in average hourly earnings. Nonfarm payrolls increased by 313,000 (Briefing.com consensus 210K), while average hourly earnings increased 0.2%, as expected, and the unemployment rate stayed at 4.1% (Briefing.com consensus 4.0%). The report helped Wall Street close out the week on a positive note, boosting the major averages more than 1.5% apiece on Friday.
11 of 11 S&P sectors finished with weekly gains. Economically-sensitive groups like financials (+4.4%), technology (+4.3%), industrials (+4.4%), and materials (+4.1%) were the top-performing sectors, while countercyclical spaces like consumer staples (+1.7%), utilities (+0.8%), and telecom services (+1.8%) showed relative weakness.
Following this week's rally, the S&P 500 is about 3.0% below its record high (2873), which is a big improvement from -10.1% at the bottom of the February sell off.
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