Stocks Erase Losses With Economy Strength in Focus: Markets Wrap

(Bloomberg) — US stocks pushed higher in afternoon trading, while Treasuries were mostly lower as investors homed in on another batch of solid economic data, even as worries mounted that it would force a hawkish response from the Federal Reserve.

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The S&P 500 was little changed after earlier dropping more than 0.75%. The Nasdaq 100 added 0.4%. Two-year Treasury yields held near 4.60%. The dollar advanced versus major peers.

US retail sales in January jumped by the most in almost two years, suggesting that strong consumer spending will keep prices elevated and increase pressure on the Fed to step up its efforts to tamp down inflation. US homebuilder sentiment rose in February by the most since mid-2020, as easing mortgage rates over the past several months have boosted the housing market.

The data, coming one day after the hotter-than-expected US consumer price inflation report, prompted fixed-income traders to press Treasury yields higher. Yet equity investors found some positive news in the same reports.

“Retail sales for January were strong across the board, and together with the strong jobs report show a resilient economy,” Matt Peron, director of research at Janus Henderson Investors, wrote. “This notion is supporting the market’s current ‘Goldilocks’ mood where the economy is strong, but inflation is receding, albeit still too high.”

“The Fed will read recent activity reports as supporting plans for additional interest rate increases in the first half of this year,” Bill Adams, chief economist at Comerica Bank, wrote. “Even so, the economy is generally performing better than expected so far in 2023, and inflation’s decline slowed at the turn of the year, too.”

“Yesterday’s CPI report for January showed inflation continuing to moderate but slowly,” wrote Ed Yardeni, founder of his namesake research firm. “The new information isn’t likely to moderate Fed officials’ hawkishness, though, and doesn’t much change the economic outlook.”

“This morning, we had very, very strong retail sales — you saw rates go up. But stocks didn’t go down,” Zhiwei Ren, portfolio manager at Penn Mutual Asset Management, said in an interview. “And if you look under the surface, those nonprofitable techs are outperforming.”

“Everybody is trying to figure out whether this is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime soft landing or if it’s just taking longer before we get a panic recession,” Jerry Braakman, chief investment officer of First American Trust, said in an interview. “That’s why you’re seeing a lot of divergence between bulls and bears.”

Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA, doesn’t see the Fed cutting rates this year. “That likelihood is getting smaller and smaller and right now — we’re more likely to see a rate cut beginning in the first half of 2024,” he said in an interview.

The energy sector was the biggest drag on the S&P Wednesday. Oil futures dropped below $78 a barrel after EIA reported that crude inventories rose over 16 million barrels last week. Devon Energy Corp. fell as much as 12% after fourth-quarter earnings missed estimates.

The pound weakened as UK inflation fell more than expected in January and European stocks gained. Barclays Plc slumped as much as 10% after the bank’s earnings missed estimates.

Bitcoin rallied for a second day, topping the $23,000 level and spurring gains in cryptocurrency-exposed stocks.

Key events:

  • US jobless claims, Australia unemployment, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester speaks at Global Interdependence Center event Thursday

  • France CPI, Russia GDP Friday

Some of the main moves in markets:


  • The S&P 500 was little changed as of 3:10 p.m. New York time

  • The Nasdaq 100 rose 0.4%, climbing for the third straight day, the longest winning streak since Feb. 2

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2%

  • The MSCI World index was little changed


  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index rose 0.6%, more than any closing gain since Feb. 3

  • The euro fell 0.5% to $1.0683

  • The British pound slipped 1.2%, more than any closing loss since Feb. 3

  • The Japanese yen fell 0.7% to 134.15 per dollar


  • Bitcoin surged 5.9%, more than any closing gain since Jan. 20

  • Ether surged 4.9%, more than any closing gain since Jan. 20


  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries advanced seven basis points to 3.81%

  • Germany’s 10-year yield advanced four basis points to 2.48%

  • Britain’s 10-year yield declined three basis points, more than any closing decline since Feb. 2


  • West Texas Intermediate crude fell 0.6% to $78.55 a barrel

  • Gold futures fell 1% to $1,846.40 an ounce

This story was produced with the assistance of Bloomberg Automation.

–With assistance from Lu Wang and Angel Adegbesan.

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