Weekly Market Recap – March 19, 2021
In the Markets
The initial jobless claims report, at 770,000, was the highest weekly number in five weeks; the count for the previous week was 725,000. February retail sales decreased 3.0%, compared with January’s 7.6% increase. Industrial production rose 1.3%, slightly weaker than the prior month’s +1.4%. Business inventories rose 0.3%, down from 0.8%. Capacity utilization increased to 73.8% over the previous month’s 75.5%. There were 1.52 million housing starts in February vs. January’s 1.58 million. Several European countries have mandated new lockdown restrictions as concerns mount over another surge in COVID-19 cases. The E.U. resumed the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. On Friday, the U.S. reached President Biden’s initial goal of 100 million coronavirus vaccine doses.
June T-Note and T-Bond futures made new 14 month lows, as the U.S. Treasury yields continued rising. The ten-year note contract fell 18/32 to 131-07, and the thirty-year bond declined 7/32 to 154-03. The stock market indices we cover here all eased from the previous week’s levels. The greatest percentage drop was the Russell 2000’s 2.0% down-move to 183.14. Both the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ Composite slipped 0.8%: ending at 3,913.10 and 13,215.24, respectively. Closing at 32,627.97 on Friday, the DJIA lost only 0.5% for the week, but it did achieve an all-time high the day before, briefly surpassing the 33,000 mark. CBOE’s VIX soared edged upwards to 20.95 (+1.6%). In currency markets, the U.S. Dollar Index edged up +0.3%, trading at 91.92 at the close. The S&P GSCI slid, as the general commodity trend for the week was flat-to-down; the basket of futures closed down 3.4% at 475.23, its lowest end-of-week valuation in a month.
In the physical commodity sectors, metals fared best, mostly due to palladium’s 11.4% rise to $2,2630.90 in the June futures. The rally was driven by a report from Russia, the world’s number one producer of the metal, that there was a greater than expected supply deficit.
Aluminum closed up 4.4% for the week, ending at $2,265.50 per ton, the highest since June 2018. The rise was attributed to inventory shortages. The other metals futures we focus on in our recap closed as follows: gold at $1,741.70 (+1.3%), silver at $26.321 (+1.6%), platinum at $1,200.10 (0.0%), and copper at $4.1130 (-0.7%).
On the energy futures charts, the uptrend is breaking. Thursday’s sell-off in the crude contracts, and the continued weakness on Friday, came as traders anticipated the Sunday financial report from Saudi Aramco. For the week, NYMEX WTI tumbled to $61.42 per barrel, down 6.4%. Brent fell to $64.53 (-6.8%). Percentage-wise, U.S. refined products plummeted even more: heating oil dove 7.4%, closing the week at $1.8223, and RBOB gasoline crashed 9.6% to $1.9431 per gallon. Natural gas, reacting to a bearish storage report on Thursday, moved down 2.5% for the week, ending at $2.535 per mmBtu.
Turning to the agricultural markets, we saw a week with more declines than increases. Six of the nine products we feature here moved to the downside. The settlement prices were as follows: soybeans rising 0.2% to $14.16¼, corn gaining 3.5% to $5.57¾, wheat sliding 1.8% to $6.27 at the close, coffee dropping 3.0% to 129.000, sugar falling 2.3% to 15.76¢, cocoa retreating 3.0% to $2,493 per ton, cotton dipping 3.3% to 84.68¢/lb., cattle slipping only 0.5% to 118,400, and lean hog futures rising to 94.250, up 3.1% for the week. Pork prices are seeing 6½-year highs, partly due to U.S. winter-related production problems, but also to continued fears in China about swine fever affecting South Africa’s China-bound exports.
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