Stocks added to their early 2023 gains amid a busy stream of mixed corporate earnings results and conflicting economic data. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.81%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 added 2.47%. The Nasdaq Composite index rose 4.32% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, increased by 1.14%.1,2,3
With the backdrop of earnings reports and conflicting economic data, stocks climbed higher on cooling inflation, continued economic resilience, and fourth-quarter corporate earnings results that, while underwhelming, did not appear as bad as many had feared.
There was enough new economic data to support both the “recession is coming” and the “soft landing” camps. It was corporate results and continued labor market strength, along with a solid, if weakening, fourth-quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth number, however, that raised investors’ hopes that a potential recession may be mild and likely pushed out to later in the year.
The U.S. economy expanded at a 2.9% annualized rate in the fourth quarter, slightly exceeding consensus estimates of 2.8% but down from the third quarter’s 3.2% growth rate. Consumer spending, which accounts for over two-thirds of GDP, rose 2.1%. Increases in private inventory investment, government spending, and nonresidential fixed investment also contributed to the fourth quarter’s growth. Weakness in housing and a drop in exports subtracted from the quarter’s result.4
Beneath the headline number, the personal consumption expenditures price index (the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation) rose 3.2%. That was lower than the third quarter’s 4.8% increase, though it remains above the Fed’s 2% inflation target rate.5