Stocks ended higher last week as investors navigated the crosscurrents of a potential easing in future rate hikes and continued strength in the labor market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged 0.24% higher, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 gained 1.13%. The Nasdaq Composite index improved by 2.09% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, rose 1.68%.1,2,3
The week started lower on concerns about protests in China over its zero-Covid policy and comments by two Fed presidents that the Fed may continue its aggressive rate hike policy. Stocks then surged on Wednesday following remarks by Fed Chair Powell, confirming the central bank’s intention to slow the pace of interest rate increases, which may begin as early as this month. Stocks buckled in early trading on Friday’s monthly employment report, which showed a higher-than-expected increase in new job growth and an above-expectations jump in wage growth. But stocks cut their losses by the end of the session to lock in a positive week.
In a presentation to the Brookings Institution, Powell said that it might be time to begin moderating the pace of rate hikes. He cited several areas of progress in the inflation fight, including a deceleration in interest rate-sensitive parts of the economy, such as housing and supply chain improvement. He also noted the price declines seen in goods and rents.4 But Powell suggested the labor market would need to cool down before the Fed could feel confident about making sustainable progress toward its two percent inflation target. November’s employment report showed robust job and wage growth, which indicated any cooling remained in the future.5
1. The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2022, 2. The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2022, 3. The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2022, 4. The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2022, 5. The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2022