Weekly Market Recap

Last week was a challenging one for most risk assets, as investors recalibrated their global growth expectations in the face of the rapidly spreading delta variant of SARS-CoV-2. In the US, large cap stocks were mostly lower, with only traditional defensives like utilities (+2.6%) , staples (+1.3%), and real estate (+0.7%) registering small gains. Cyclicals (particularly energy) came under selling pressure, as did small and midcap companies. International stocks were mixed, with developed markets lower on the week while E/M finished higher.

US Treasuries were treated as a safe haven, sending yields lower and bond prices higher. 10y and 30y Treasury yields both fell 7 basis points on the week, pushing the 2s10s curve to 107 basis points, the lowest since mid-February.

After touching a new pandemic-era high on Tuesday, oil prices fell on Wednesday and Thursday, finishing the week at 1-month lows.

Economic data was mixed. In encouraging news, Empire Manufacturing was very strong, retail sales were up sequentially, and weekly jobless claims continue to trend lower. Conversely, the Philly Fed’s monthly business outlook declined, the University of Michigan’s Consumer Comfort gauge was down, and inflation data (CPI and PPI) for June came in higher than expected, with headline CPI reaching +5.4% y/y while core CPI was +4.5%. As was the case in the previous two months, most of the drivers of above-trend inflation appear to be transitory factors related to the reopening of the economy.

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Weekly Market Recap

Large cap US equities moved higher last week, with the S&P 500, Dow, and Nasdaq all closing at fresh all-time highs on Friday. Most sectors finished the week higher, although financials and energy were dragged lower by the flatter yield curve and lower oil prices, respectively. Small and midcap stocks underperformed, as did international equities, as investors kept a keen eye on the rise of new cases caused by the delta variant.

Bond markets rallied yet again last week, with 10y Treasury yields falling 6 basis points to finish at 1.36%, while 30y yields finished the week just slightly below 2%. After tightening relentlessly all year, credit spreads showed the first hint of widening last week, although they remain extremely tight by historical measures. Nevertheless, last week’s modest widening resulted in corporate bonds underperforming Treasuries and Munis.

Energy prices finished the week slightly lower on concerns regarding global demand and a lack of consensus on production from OPEC+.

Economic news got off to a weak start last week with a significant miss in the ISM Services Index, which initially sent equity prices and bond yields lower. Later in the week, however, there were fresh signs of labor market strength, as the monthly JOLTS report held steady at 9.2 million jobs available, while jobless claims continued to drift lower.

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Weekly Market Recap

Weekly Recap: Equity markets rode a roller coaster fueled by inflation fears last week, with most stocks finishing lower. Headline inflation (as measured by CPI) rose above 4% for the first time since 2008, causing a short-lived spike in interest rates as well as widespread selling in equities as discount rates were
recalibrated. The fear of persistently higher inflation began to subside a bit
on Friday, allowing rates to fall and equities to recoup some of their losses.

Large cap tech stocks were hit the hardest, dragging down sector
performance for communications (-2.0%), information technology (-2.2%), and consumer discretionary (-3.7%). Meanwhile, cyclicals as well as traditional defensive sectors were mixed, with only consumer staples
(+0.4%), financials (+0.3%), and basic materials (+0.1%) finishing higher on the week.

Interest rates finished the week modestly higher, with benchmark 10y
Treasury yields rising 5bp while 30y yields were up 6bp. Credit spreads were mostly stable, resulting in small price declines across all sectors of the bond market on the back of the rise in Treasury yields.

Oil prices rose, with WTI closing back above the $65/barrel threshold.
Meanwhile, the national average price of gasoline rose above $3 per gallon
for the first time since late 2014. See the Chart of the Week for a time series.

Albion’s “Four Pillars”: Economy & Earnings – GDP growth was +6.4% annualized in Q1 2021, and is forecast to accelerate to +8.1% in Q2. Meanwhile, EPS for the S&P 500 turned positive y/y in Q4 2020 and will rise significantly y/y in Q1 2021 as the economy laps the onset of the pandemic.

Equity Valuation – the S&P 500’s forward P/E of 22x is above the historical average, and long-term valuation metrics like CAPE (cyclically adjusted P/E ratio) suggest that compound annual returns over the coming decade are likely to be in the single digits. That said, lower equity returns may be justified in the context of ultra-low yields on alternatives like bonds and cash.

Interest Rates – Rates remain low by historical standards despite recent
volatility, supporting equity valuations and lowering borrowing costs.

Inflation – After staving off deflation early in the pandemic, the Fed has
communicated tolerance for short periods of above-target inflation. A
cyclical bump in inflation may occur in 2021 as pent-up demand is released, testing the Fed’s resolve, but we do not expect higher inflation to persist.


Weekly Market Recap

Investors drove a “rotation trade” in US equity markets last week, with
weakness in large cap technology stocks offset by strength in cyclicals
(energy, financials, industrials) and small/midcap companies. Then on Friday, equities of all stripes got a boost when the US Nonfarm Payroll Report came in significantly below expectations, calming inflation fears and reassuring investors that the Fed will remain accommodative for the foreseeable future.

Bond markets rallied last week. Benchmark 10-year US Treasury yields fell 5 basis points, reversing most of the increase from the final week of April.
Meanwhile, credit spreads remained at or near YTD tights, allowing the price gains in Treasuries to flow through to corporate and municipal bonds.

Commodity prices rose, with oil (WTI) closing at nearly $65/barrel even
before a cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline Co led to a shutdown of the largest pipeline network in the eastern US. Many other commodity prices moved higher as well, including agricultural products, building products, and textiles.

As mentioned above, the monthly jobs report came in well below
expectations, touching off a loud political debate about whether the best
solution to slowing job growth is a reduction in unemployment benefits that some believe are distorting incentives, or an increase in childcare support coupled with significant infrastructure spending.


Weekly Market Recap

Equities finished on a softer note last week, pulling back on Friday after the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite had set fresh all-time highs on Thursday and Monday, respectively. Sector performance was mixed, with energy, communications, and financials all rising 2% or more, while healthcare and tech were both down ~2% on the week. US small and midcap stocks also finished the week slightly lower, as did international equities.

Bucking the April trend, interest rates began to rise last week. Benchmark 10-year and 30-year Treasury yields both finished 7 basis points higher w/w, the largest weekly increase in rates since mid-March. Credit spreads compressed, cushioning the downward price movement in investment grade corporates, while riskier (and shorter duration) high yield bonds registered small gains.

Commodity prices finished April on a strong upward trajectory, with oil
(WTI) closing above $65/barrel on Thursday before pulling back a bit on
Friday. Many other commodities were up sharply during the second half of
April, including most grains, textiles, and building products.

Economic news was positive last week. Consumer confidence rose sharply in April, jobless claims remain near pandemic-era lows, durable goods orders rebounded, and home prices continued to rise. Meanwhile, the Fed reiterated its commitment to keep rates low and maintain its asset purchase programs, while welcoming signs that the economic recovery is strengthening.


Weekly Market Recap

Equity markets rallied last week, particularly after Wednesday’s release of consumer price inflation (CPI) data that was slightly below consensus estimates. The S&P 500 and the Dow both finished the week at fresh all-time highs, while the Nasdaq remains ~5% below its mid-February record. Small and midcap stocks continued their run of dominant performance, extending their YTD lead over large caps. International indices also finished higher.

Rates drifted lower for much of the week before abruptly moving higher on Friday. In the end, 10-year yields rose 5bp on the week to 1.62%, the highest close since February 12, 2020. 30-year yields rose 8bp to 2.38%, the highest level since late 2019. Investment grade credits spreads where largely unchanged while high yield spreads tightened, resulting in moderate price declines for high quality corporates while riskier bonds were close to flat.

Oil prices fell early in the week and then rallied; the US dollar did the reverse.

In an encouraging sign for the labor market, weekly jobless claims (new and continuing) reached their lowest levels of the pandemic in data released on Thursday. See the Chart of the Week for a time series.

Finally, in a Thursday night address to the nation, President Joe Biden announced that he would direct all US states to make vaccines available to any adult that wants one by no later than May 1st.