Stocks faced downward pressure as strong economic data and cautious remarks from U.S. Federal Reserve officials suggested a potential delay in an initial interest-rate cut until the latter half of the year. The major indexes tumbled over 1% on Thursday, and although there was a partial recovery on Friday, stocks still ended the week with declines.

Despite elevated interest rates, the U.S. labor market continued to thrive, with March witnessing a robust addition of 303,000 jobs, surpassing economists’ expectations of around 205,000. This figure marked the largest monthly gain in 10 months, matching the job additions seen in May 2023, while the unemployment rate dipped to 3.8% from the previous month’s 3.9%.

Driven by shifting interest-rate expectations, the yield of the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond climbed to its highest level in over four months, reaching around 4.39% by Friday’s close, up from the prior week’s 4.20%.

Oil and gold maintained their upward trajectory for the second consecutive week, with U.S. crude oil reaching nearly $87 per barrel by Friday afternoon, up from $83 the previous week and $71 at the beginning of the year. Gold spot prices also hit a record high of around $2,345 per ounce.

As major banks geared up to announce quarterly earnings, analysts projected a 3.2% average increase in first-quarter earnings per share for S&P 500 companies, marking the third consecutive quarter of year-over-year earnings growth, according to FactSet.

In the eurozone, inflation saw a sharper-than-expected decline, with consumer prices rising at an annual rate of 2.4% in March, down from 2.6% in the previous month. Despite this trend, the European Central Bank was not anticipated to initiate interest rate cuts until June.

Amid Thursday’s stock market downturn, an index tracking short-term market volatility hit its highest closing level in over five months, reflecting investor concerns. Although it moderated slightly on Friday, it closed approximately 23% higher than the previous week.

The upcoming release of the Consumer Price Index report on Wednesday will provide insights into whether the trend of slightly elevated inflation persisted into March. February’s CPI report showed an annual rate of 3.2%, up from 3.1% the previous month, while a separate report on wholesale prices also indicated slightly higher-than-expected inflation.

Major U.S. Economic Reports

S&P U.S. manufacturing PMI (final)March51.952.5
Construction spendingFeb.-0.3%-0.2%
ISM manufacturingMarch50.3%47.8%
Factory ordersFeb.1.4%-3.8%
Job openingsFeb.8.8 million8.8 million
U.S. auto salesMarch15.5 million15.8 million
ADP employmentMarch184,000155,000
S&P U.S. services PMI (final)March51.751.7
ISM servicesMarch51.4%52.6%
Initial jobless claimsMarch 30221,000212,000
U.S. trade balanceFeb.-$68.9B-$67.6B
U.S. nonfarm payrollsMarch303,000270,000
U.S. unemployment rateMarch3.8%3.9%
U.S. hourly wagesMarch0.3%0.1%
Hourly wages year over year4.1%4.3%
Consumer creditMarch$19.5B

Closing Prices for the Week

Dow Jones Industrials Average38,904.04
Nasdaq Composite16,248.52
S&P 500 Index5,204.34
CBOE Volatility Index16.03
S&P GSCI601.90
U.S. Dollar Index104.298
10-Year T-Note (Jun ’24)109-210
Crude Oil WTI (May ’24)86.91
Natural Gas (May ’24)1.785
Gold (Jun ’24)2,345.4
Silver (May ’24)27.503
Corn (May ’24)434-2
Wheat (May ’24)567-2
Soybean (May ’24)1185-0
Coffee (Jul ’24)211.00
Sugar #11 (May ’24)21.99

Trading futures and forex involves significant risk of loss and is not suitable for everyone.

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