Stocks drifted lower as a week of mixed earnings reports and resurgent worries over Fed monetary policy dragged on investor sentiment. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.17%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 declined 1.11%. The Nasdaq Composite index lost 2.41%. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, dipped 0.30%.1,2,3
Stocks struggled last week, weighed down by rising bond yields, a firming U.S. dollar, geopolitical tensions, and generally unimpressive corporate earnings reports. Perhaps the most consequential overhang was the potential direction of monetary policy.
Initially, traders were relieved by comments made by Fed Chair Jerome Powell earlier in the week that he had not struck a more aggressive tone following the strong employment report released after the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. The relief was short-lived, however, as anxieties over future monetary policy resurfaced, exacerbated by comments by one Fed governor who suggested restrictive monetary policy would be necessary for a few years to tamp down inflation.
Investors were particularly eager on Tuesday to hear Powell’s first comments following the strong employment report the previous Friday. The concern was that the surprise job number would change Powell’s outlook coming out of the last FOMC meeting.
Powell instead repeated his post-FOMC meeting remarks, which were that a disinflationary trend was underway, and there remained a distance to travel before the measures taken tamed inflation. The Fed would be data-dependent in making future rate decisions. Powell also pointed out that the robust job growth showed why it might take so long to reduce inflation to the Fed’s target level.4
1. The Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2023, 2. The Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2023, 3. The Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2023, 4. The Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2023