For a shortened holiday week, the final trading sessions of the first quarter managed to be both volatile and surprising. The consumer staples sector (mainly household products along with food and beverage companies) led the group to the week’s best return, gaining 2.2% on solid wage and consumer spending data. Shares of utility companies, up 1.55%, were the beneficiary of a surprising drop in interest rates as investors that have exited equities in recent weeks elected to buy bonds rather than remain in cash. Both the ten-year and thirty-year U.S. Treasury bonds continued to retreat in yield, closing Thursday at 2.74% and 2.97%, respectively. Information technology and consumer discretionary issues posted declines of 0.9% last week, accounting for most of the performance drag among the major indices. We continued to experience a reversal of recent performance trends, as the shares of smaller companies declined more than that of the larger capitalization companies. While the S&P 500® Index lost 0.08%, companies comprising the Russell 2000® Index lost 0.94%. So too was the trend among the international markets. The developed markets, represented by the MSCI EAFE® Index, gained 0.64%, and those comprising the MSCI Emerging Market Index slipped by 0.24%.
Since this market advance began, one of its hallmarks has been the regular occurrence of what has come to be known as ‘risk on’ and ‘risk off’ trading. When investors felt positive about the future, they would load up on stocks, commodities, private equity and the like, while eschewing safe assets like Treasury debt and cash. What was unique so far this year was the absence of this trade, save for last Thursday. This makes sense considering the environment has changed now that the majority of the world’s central banks have exited, or are in the process of exiting, their quantitative easing and other sundry market interventions. Hopefully, what investors will soon come to realize as well is that even though interest rates may no longer be falling, it does not necessarily mean rates will be going meaningfully higher anytime soon. I have included an earlier interest rate trough as a comparison to the one we are currently experiencing. By way of reference, that was not a bad time for investors, nor is this one likely to be either.
For a PDF version of this publication, click here: 04.02.2018_WeeklyMarketOverview
Source: All statistics herein obtained from Bloomberg.
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