Financial markets went into full risk-off mode last week, with equities moving lower, the Treasury yield curve flattening, credit spreads widening, and the dollar stronger. An uptick in jobless claims suggests that omicron is having an impact on demand, while investors continue to grapple with the hard pivot in Fed policy.
US large caps were down 5-7% on average, with small caps down even more sharply. Defensive sectors held up the best, along with energy stocks which were once again buoyed by rising oil prices. International equity markets fared better as they generally have so far in 2022, registering smaller losses.
Treasuries saw strong demand in the belly and long end of the curve as 10y and 30y yields fell by 2bp and 5bp, respectively. 2y yields finished slightly higher on the week, but fell 6bp in the last two sessions after peaking at 1.06% on Wednesday. Meanwhile, credit spreads widened modestly in investment grade markets and more significantly in high yield, echoing the move lower in equities.
Oil prices were also higher last week, although they too peaked on Wednesday before being pulled lower by the increase in risk aversion on Thursday & Friday.
While the uptick in jobless claims was not encouraging, other economic indicators were strong. Housing starts and residential building permits rose in fresh December data, the Philly Fed Business Outlook survey registered strong gains in the January print, and the Conference Boards Leading Economic Index (LEI) rose 0.8% in December, the 10th consecutive month of solid gains.