Stocks were mixed last week following better-than-expected corporate reports and increasing optimism over a slowdown in interest rates. The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged lower, slipping -0.15%. The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 1.62% while the Nasdaq Composite index led, picking up 3.31%. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, increased by 1.16%.1,2,3
Strong earnings reports and encouraging inflation data lifted stocks ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) decision on Wednesday to hike interest rates by 25 basis points. Markets rallied following the announcement, relieved that the increase was in line with expectations and buoyed by post-meeting comments in which Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged the disinflationary forces in place. Fresh earnings reports fueled further gains, with positive earnings surprises from several big-name technology companies that benefited the larger universe of Nasdaq-listed high-growth companies. Disappointing earnings from three mega-cap tech companies and a strong employment report triggered a Friday pull-back, paring the week’s gains.
The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 0.25%, signaling to the financial markets that it would likely hike rates by another 25 basis points at its next meeting in late March. Fed officials said the slowdown in rate hikes might provide time to assess the impact of the accumulated rate hikes. The Fed retained language in its post-meeting statement that future rate hike plans were unchanged to discourage investors’ hopes of an imminent pause in the rate-hike cycle.4 In his post-meeting press conference, Fed Chair Powell reiterated the Fed’s commitment not to declare victory on inflation prematurely but acknowledged that a disinflationary trend was underway.5
1. The Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2023, 2. The Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2023, 3. The Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2023, 4. The Wall Street Journal, February 1, 2023, 5. CNBC, February 1, 2023