wall street reels amid surging factory data and diminished fed rate cut hopes 64

Market Trends

Wall Street Reels Amid Surging Factory Data and Diminished Fed Rate Cut Hopes


Robert Tavares

April 1, 2024 - 20:26 pm


Market Turbulence Ahead as Solid Factory Data Suggests No Rush for Fed Rate Cuts

Investors on Wall Street ushered in a shift in positioning as robust factory data from the United States heightened speculation that the Federal Reserve might delay any interest rate slashes. This comes after a period when the bond and equity markets had been trending lower. The Treasuries curve took a notable dip, with 10-year yields experiencing a sharp rise of over 10 basis points. This market change was stirred by an unanticipated expansion in manufacturing, marking the first since September of the previous year, alongside climbing input costs. As a result, projections for possible Federal Reserve easing within the year dipped considerably, slipping to around 65 basis points—a figure shy of the policymakers' predictions. Concurrently, the equity sector faltered, with the S&P 500 retreating from a noteworthy five-month winning streak.

Interactive Brokers analyst Jose Torres shared insights on investor behavior, noting that they are preemptively bracing for another potential hawkish shift from the Federal Reserve. Torres surmised that the anticipated first rate reduction might only materialize in the latter half of 2023, with the likelihood of a June rate cut inching closer to being a mere toss-up.

The upcoming employment report is expected to reveal persistent job growth for March while indicating a slowdown in wage inflation. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who is slated to address the public on Wednesday, has underscored the need for clearer indications that pricing pressures are being effectively contained before conducting any policy adjustments.

U.S. 10-year Treasury yields have been hovering close to their heights for the year 2024. The S&P 500 descended below the 5,250 mark, while tech giants like Apple Inc. experienced a decrease in share value and Microsoft Corp. witnessed gains. Adding to market strains, FedEx Corp.'s shares took a dive as reports surfaced about the upcoming expiration of their partnership with the United States Postal Service at the end of September. Amidst these developments, the U.S. dollar saw an uptick, and commodities such as oil and gold experienced price increases, ostensibly due to the escalating conflict in the Middle East following an Israeli offensive in Syria.

According to BMO Capital Markets strategists Ian Lyngen and Vail Hartman, while some may attribute the moves in market conditions to the surprising manufacturing data, a selloff in bonds had already been taking shape prior to the announcement. They noted that Monday’s future market activity suggests sentiment in U.S. rates could be veering towards a more hawkish stance. However, they also mentioned that there is considerable room for sentiments to shift significantly as additional data emerges.

On a more detailed note, the Institute for Supply Management reported an uptick in its manufacturing index, registering at 50.3 last month. Barely edging past the crucial threshold that distinguishes expansion from contraction, this data effectively ended a 16-month streak of diminishing manufacturing activities. Simultaneously, a subindex that tracks input price inflation jumped to 55.8, marking its pinnacle since July the year prior.

Michael Shaoul of Marketfield Asset Management voiced concerns about these inflationary signals. He emphasized that the sudden surge in the prices paid index suggests a reversal of the brief respite from inflationary pressures previously deemed 'transitory.' Kurt Rankin at PNC echoed this sentiment, highlighting that the recent uptrend in manufacturing costs points to persistent inflation risks, virtually guaranteeing consumer price hikes and complicating the evidence needed to verify a sustainable inflation trajectory towards the Fed's 2 percent target.

Market dynamics were also influenced by diminished expectations for Federal Reserve monetary easing this year, with the likelihood of an initial move in June dipping below 50 percent at one point. Another element exerting downward pressure on the bond market was an influx of corporate bond issuances.

Adobe Inc. entered the high-grade market, seeking funds to finance capital expenditures, share repurchases, and future acquisitions. This issuance was part of a broader trend that included seven different entities entering the bond market. Japanese e-commerce titan Rakuten Group Inc. also took part in the action, venturing to raise a US$1.25 billion junk bond to address maturing notes.

The frenzy of corporate bond issuances is uncertain. The first quarter broke records for investment-grade corporate bonds, and high-yield bond activity was at its zenith since 2021. However, it is common for such market activities to wind down post the Easter holiday, especially in April.

A recent outlook from the BlackRock Investment Institute proposes a strategy of staying adaptable while searching for income opportunities. They predict that central banks are likely to maintain elevated rates for an extended period, a pivot from pre-pandemic norms, largely due to persistent supply-side constraints.

Oppenheimer Asset Management's John Stoltzfus highlighted the role of the U.S. economy's strength and the resilience of corporations in helping markets to weather disappointments that emerged as the Federal Reserve repeatedly deferred market expectations for rate reductions. He suggested that investors should restrain their anticipations regarding the timing and magnitude of any potential Fed cuts this year.

Investors reeling from one of the most lucrative first quarters for the S&P 500 in decades are now speculating on the next market trajectory—be it a continued ascent or a sudden downturn. Market indicators explain that the cost of bullish call options has escalated, suggesting investor optimism, while the price of bearish puts has decreased, indicating less concern for minor retracements.

Chris Senyek from Wolfe Research forecasts increased market volatility following an impressive rally. He points out that an expanded rally has led to inflated valuations across the board. An equal-weighted version of the S&P benchmark has reached multiples surpassing 17 times earnings, a figure landing in the top echelon of valuations since 1985. However, historically, similar valuation peaks have often been followed by additional gains, rather than immediate corrections.

Bank of America Corp. strategists report a significant boost in investor confidence, with the highest uplift observed in nearly two years, but they emphasize that the sentiment remains well below levels that would typically indicate a market peak. According to the Sell-Side Indicator by BofA, the current state of the market has historically yielded positive returns 94 percent of the time over the following year.

Jonathan Krinsky at BTIG points out that momentum unwinding poses the greatest risk as the calendar flips to April. The Goldman Sachs Long/Short High Beta Momentum Index has surged to an extent unseen except on two other occasions in the past 15 years, prompting concerns about the sustainability of such rapid growth.

Mark Hackett of Nationwide is closely monitoring several factors that could potentially destabilize the current rally. With markets entering a period of true testing against overconfidence and margin pressures, April is expected to shed light on market sustainability.

Corporate Highlights & Weekly Key Events

  • AT&T Inc. has announced a significant data breach, with approximately 73 million customer records leaked onto the dark web, resulting in a mass account passcode reset.
  • Micron Technology Inc. received a boosted price target from Bank of America, promoting share growth.
  • Delta Air Lines Inc. saw an uptick after Morgan Stanley enhanced its stock price target.
  • United Airlines Holdings Inc. seeks voluntary unpaid leave from its pilots, hinting at ongoing issues due to delayed Boeing deliveries.
  • Nippon Steel Corp. solidifies union support for its major acquisition of United States Steel Corp. with job and spending commitments.
  • Advent International makes a confident move towards acquiring Canadian payments firm Nuvei Corp. for $6.3 billion, indicating a rebound in private equity confidence.
  • A federal court approved a substantial $10 billion settlement offer from 3M Co. for PFAS-related public water system claims.
  • Banks, including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, are fundraising for Endo International in efforts to help the pharmaceutical firm emerge from bankruptcy.

Main Moves in Markets

Highlights from the market dynamics reveal a varying trend amongst major indices. Here are some of the primary movements discerned:

  • Stocks: The S&P 500 noted a slight decline, whereas the Nasdaq 100 observed an uptick. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more moderately, and the MSCI World index experienced a drop.
  • Currencies: The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index gained, the euro and the British pound both fell against the dollar, and the Japanese yen saw a minor decrease.
  • Cryptocurrencies: Both Bitcoin and Ether faced a downtrend, with some significant losses.
  • Bonds: The yield on 10-year Treasuries increased notably, while the yields on German and British 10-year bonds remained relatively unchanged.
  • Commodities: West Texas Intermediate crude oil witnessed a rise in price, and spot gold also saw an increase.

For further reading, referencing the following sources may provide additional market insights: ISM Manufacturing Data, Federal Reserve Statements, and company-specific announcements on mainstream financial news platforms.

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