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Wall Street's Rollercoaster Week Ends on a Low Despite Peaks

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Leo Gonzalez

March 9, 2024 - 15:00 pm

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Wall Street Sees Tumultuous Week Despite Record Highs

In a surprising turn of events despite momentary peaks, Wall Street concluded the preceding week on a lower note. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index, commonly known as the S&P 500, set a new precedent by achieving an all-time closing high on Thursday, only to be overshadowed by the Nasdaq Composite index, which soared to an unprecedented intraday record on Friday. Nevertheless, this surge was short-lived as it nosedived over 1% by the end of the trading session. These fluctuations underscored the unpredictable nature of the current stock market environment, marking the Dow Jones Industrial Average's worst weekly performance since the previous October, with a 0.93% downturn. The S&P 500 and the predominantly tech-centric Nasdaq saw reductions of 0.26% and 1.17%, respectively.

Earnings Season Winds Down Positively

The latest earnings season is gradually drawing to a close, and the overall sentiment has been largely favorable. Data compiled by FactSet demonstrates that out of the S&P 500 companies that have declared earnings, a considerable 73% exceeded earnings projections, while 64% surpassed revenue expectations. This is a testament to the resilience of corporate America amid the uncertain economic climate.

Corporate Updates from the Investment Club

This past week, the investment community took stock of fresh financial disclosures from notable Club holdings. Footwear giant Foot Locker divulged its financial results on Wednesday, which regrettably did not meet the market's expectations. The prompt market response seemed excessively punitive considering the company's otherwise stable performance. On Thursday, retail behemoth Costco and semiconductor heavyweight Broadcom presented their earnings reports, delivering robust yet imperfect results that left some room for shareholders to capitalize on the stocks' impressive trajectories by banking profits.

The Big Picture: Economy and Employment Data

The most awaited economic update arrived on Friday with the issuance of February's nonfarm payrolls report. The report, painted with strokes of optimism and caution, provided fuel for the 'soft landing' hypothesis in the economy. The report eclipsed expectations in terms of job additions, although this positive was tempered by a higher unemployment rate and milder annual wage inflation than anticipated. This concoction of indicators could be a recipe for success for investors who yearn for inflation to fall without the collateral of surging unemployment that may stifle economic growth.

Insights from ADP and ISM

The week also brought insights from other data sources. The ADP's private-sector employment figures and the Institute for Supply Management's Services report for February were both announced, coming in marginally below expectations. These reports offer a glimpse into the private sector's employment health and the service sector's activity level, respectively.

Commerce Department Factory Orders

Another pertinent revelation came from the Commerce Department, which on Tuesday reported on factory orders for January. Contrary to expectations, there was a more pronounced decline than what had been forecasted, suggesting a potential cooling off in manufacturing activity.

Key Macroeconomic Updates in the Week Ahead

In the forthcoming week, less noise is anticipated from Club earnings, making way for several macroeconomic developments to take center stage. The spotlight shines bright on Tuesday's consumer price index report for February. Economists, drawing on insights from FactSet, predict a 3.1% annual upswing in the headline figure and an escalation of 3.7% at the core level, once the volatile elements of food and energy prices are factored out. The core consumer price index, while not the Federal Reserve’s preferred gauge for inflation, is widely acknowledged by Wall Street and plays a significant role in shaping expectations for the Fed's interest rate decisions.

Fed's Balancing Act and the Shelter Index

The report's fine print, particularly the shelter index, is crucial for understanding inflation in essential living costs. With housing inflation persistently high, this measure becomes a critical concern for the Federal Reserve since it reflects a substantial and unavoidable expense for consumers in the U.S.

Producer Price Index: An Indicator to Watch

Thursday is set to bring forth the February produce price index (PPI), a metric often overshadowed by the CPI but nonetheless pivotal because it can signal upcoming trends in consumer prices. With companies facing the dilemma of either absorbing rising costs or transferring them to consumers, a heightened PPI could suggest imminent consumer price inflations. Such a scenario is undesirable as it would compel the Fed to maintain, if not intensify, its aggressive stance on monetary policy to keep inflation in check.

Anticipated PPI and Core PPI Figures

Economists, as relayed by FactSet, project a 0.3% month-over-month rise in the overall PPI and a slight 0.2% increase in the core PPI. On an annual basis, a 1% uptick is anticipated.

Unveiling Consumer Behavior: February Retail Sales Report

Another critical data point, the February retail sales report, will be unveiled on Thursday. This report does not directly measure inflation but offers invaluable insights into consumer spending, a major contributor to the gross domestic product. Consumer expenditures account for nearly two-thirds of the U.S. GDP; hence a robust performance in this sector is essential if a 'soft landing' in the economic milieu is to be achieved.

Understanding the Federal Reserve's Prudence

The Federal Reserve's approach to shifting monetary policy is underscored by the necessity to maintain a delicate equilibrium. Chairman Jerome Powell, who may have been criticized for being slow to initiate rate hikes, has since been credited with a meticulous execution of monetary strategy, an exemplar for central bankers globally as these adjustments approach their two-year mark.

Upcoming Industrial Production Report

This week's disclosures will culminate on Friday with the industrial production and capacity utilization report for February. This publication is anticipated to offer insights into the manufacturing domain and, indirectly, consumer and business demand. A rise in end market demand typically results in heightened production and capacity utilization higher up the supply chain, offering a window into the health of the broader economy.

Investment Opportunity Alerts: CNBC's Investing Club with Jim Cramer

Subscribers of the CNBC Investing Club with Jim Cramer are privy to timely trade alerts from Jim Cramer himself. Notably, to uphold transparency and fairness, Cramer imposes a 45-minute waiting period after disseminating a trade alert before engaging in the trade within his charitable trust's portfolio. Furthermore, should Cramer discuss a stock on CNBC TV, a 72-hour waiting period is observed before he executes the trade. This clear structure and commitment to ethical practices ensure neutrality and trust in the recommendations provided to investors.

Full Disclosure of Holdings and Ethical Investing

Jim Cramer's charitable trust maintains positions in Foot Locker, Costco, and Broadcom. A transparent and comprehensive list of the stocks in the trust's portfolio is readily available (see here for a full list of the stocks). It is emphasized that the provision of information through the Investing Club does not establish a fiduciary duty or obligation and should not be construed as guaranteeing any particular investment outcomes or profits.

Schedule for the Upcoming Week

Investors should prepare for a week filled with significant economic updates. The agenda includes a wide array of earnings reports from a diverse spectrum of industries. Before the market opens, companies ranging from Ballard Power Systems to Jabil Inc. are expected to reveal earnings, with their performances either validating or challenging overall market sentiment.

Noteworthy Earnings From Various Sectors

Following the bell, enterprises in technology, apparel, healthcare, energy, and financial services among others are lined up to report their financial results. Oracle, Asana, ULTA Beauty, and Adobe represent some of the tech powerhouses slated to disclose their earnings, offering a microcosmic view of the tech sector's economic pulse.

The weeks ahead put a damping spotlight on the macroeconomic terrain, where investors will closely monitor the consumer price index and producer price index reports to gauge inflation trends. Simultaneously, sales and industrial production figures will be meticulously analyzed for indications of consumer behavior and economic health. As the balance between caution and optimism remains tight, the fiscal drama continues to unfold on Wall Street, every data point serving as a potential pivot for policy decisions and market movements.

For more details on the earnings report schedule and to become a part of CNBC’s Investing Club with insights from Jim Cramer, visit: CNBC Investing Club.

In conclusion, while Wall Street charts through a veritable economic odyssey, fraught with volatility and punctuated by momentary triumphs in stock indices, it is the astute observation of intricate market signals that will light the path for investors. With the Fed’s intricate dance with interest rates and the palpable anticipation for forthcoming economic reports, every investor remains on the edge of their seats, their gaze transfixed on the evolving financial horizon.

Disclaimer: This news article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute investment advice or an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any securities. All investments and investment recommendations entail risks. Any forward-looking statements are made as of the date of this news article, and no commitment or obligation is made to update or revise them. Past performance is not indicative of future results.