Weekly Economic Update

Economic Update 2-1-2021

  • Economic data for the week included no action by the Federal Reserve, a 4th quarter GDP report that came in largely in line with expectations, continued strength in the housing market, and jobless claims that came in a bit better.
  • Global equity markets experienced their worst week in a few months, with ongoing fears of economic slowing due to continued virus cases, in addition to some unique trading in certain U.S. stocks that raised volumes. Bonds were little changed despite that weakness in risk assets. Commodities were slightly higher due to tighter agricultural inventories.

U.S. stocks fell back starting mid-week with their largest decline in three months, with Congressional delays in getting a stimulus package together, the seeming uncertainty surrounding the Federal Reserve’s official meeting statement (that the economic recovery has ‘moderated’ wasn’t a surprise), and, unfortunately, higher trading volumes surrounding the short squeezed stocks discussed earlier. The Senate has yet to wrap up administrative rules and procedures, which has delayed the process. Additionally, many legislators have balked at the large bill of $1.9 tril. (which may have been initially inflated with the realization that the final figure would be far lower). Improvement in jobless claims appeared to help sentiment by the week’s end.

Every S&P sector declined last week, with cyclically-sensitive energy and materials taking the brunt of the damage, down over -5% each. Real estate held up best, with minimal change, along with other defensive groups consumer staples and utilities, which only declined about a percent each.

Last week, over a third of S&P 500 companies reported Q4 earnings, bringing the cumulative total having reported to about half. The results have been better than expected. Per FactSet, while the bulk of firms have experienced a year-over-year earnings decline (-3% for the market thus far), over 80% have beaten earnings estimates with 70% outperforming on the revenue side. The strongest results have originated from technology, healthcare, and financials.

Foreign stocks behaved in similar fashion to domestic stocks last week, with concerns over continued high virus counts, as well as vaccine supply shortages and delays in distribution. There was very little differentiation by region. GDP results for several European countries came in as expected, showing minimal growth at all, and 2021 estimates are a few percent below those in the U.S. Emerging markets suffered a bit worse than developed countries, with more cyclically-sensitive nations such as Mexico faring a bit worse than average, but little differentiation otherwise.

U.S. bonds changed minimally for the second straight week, with treasuries rising slightly and corporates falling back, as spreads widened. High yield and senior bank loans fared worst, with larger declines during the week, along with weaker equity markets. Foreign bonds were little changed, and held back by a stronger dollar last week.

Commodities gained on net, despite the usual headwind of a weaker dollar. Strong price gains in agriculture (seemingly due to lower crop estimates and higher Chinese demand) offset a drop in industrial metals, while energy and precious metals were little changed for the week. The price of crude oil fell minimally to just over $52/barrel.

Period ending 1/29/20211 Week (%)YTD (%)
S&P 500-3.29-1.01
Russell 2000-4.385.03
BBgBarc U.S. Aggregate0.03-0.72
U.S. Treasury Yields3 Mo.2 Yr.5 Yr.10 Yr.30 Yr.

Sources:  LSA Portfolio Analytics, American Association for Individual Investors (AAII), Associated Press, Barclays Capital, Bloomberg, Deutsche Bank, FactSet, Financial Times, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Asset Management, Kiplinger’s, Marketfield Asset Management, Minyanville, Morgan Stanley, MSCI, Morningstar, Northern Trust, Oppenheimer Funds, Payden & Rygel, PIMCO, Rafferty Capital Markets, LLC, Schroder’s, Standard & Poor’s, The Conference Board, Thomson Reuters, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Federal Reserve, Wells Capital Management, Yahoo!, Zacks Investment Research.  Index performance is shown as total return, which includes dividends, with the exception of MSCI-EM, which is quoted as price return/excluding dividends.  Performance for the MSCI-EAFE and MSCI-EM indexes is quoted in U.S. Dollar investor terms.

The information above has been obtained from sources considered reliable, but no representation is made as to its completeness, accuracy or timeliness.  All information and opinions expressed are subject to change without notice.  Information provided in this report is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, investment, legal or tax advice; and does not constitute an offer, or a solicitation of any offer, to buy or sell any security, investment or other product. 


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