A late-week surge, triggered by reassuring Fed-speak, propelled stocks higher last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.75%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 advanced 1.90%. The Nasdaq Composite index picked up 2.58% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, added 0.81%.1,2,3
After rebounding to start the week, stocks weakened following higher inflation numbers out of Europe and higher-than-expected manufacturing activity. Stocks continued their decline into early Thursday following a report of higher labor costs and low initial jobless claims. But stocks staged an afternoon relief rally on Thursday following comments by Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic that he was “still very firmly” supportive of increasing rates in quarter-point increments. The climb in stocks was remarkable, given that yields on 10-year Treasuries reached their highest level since November. Undeterred by a strong services data report, the upside momentum continued into the final trading day and added to the week’s gains.4
It was a relatively quiet week for economic news, but several new economic data reports gave insights into overall activity. U.S. manufacturing activity contracted in February–the fourth consecutive month it has done so. While this may eventually justify a reason for moderating future rate hikes, the activity exceeded analysts’ expectations. An accompanying survey of manufacturers pointed to improving demand and potentially accelerating price pressures.
Meanwhile, China reported an outsized jump in manufacturing activity, which may help relieve remaining supply chain kinks. But the report may also fuel commodity price increases and influence global inflation. Inflation remained a persistent issue in Europe, as February’s Eurozone inflation read was hotter than anticipated.
1. The Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2023, 2. The Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2023, 3. The Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2023, 4. The Wall Street Journal, March 2, 2023