March 20, 2017
Week in Review: 3/17/17
After snapping a streak of six consecutive weekly gains, the stock market returned to its winning ways. The S&P 500 added 0.2% for the week, but did not overtake its record high from the start of March, which may count as a loss for investors starved for more. The tech-heavy Nasdaq (+0.7%) outperformed, climbing near its early-March high to flirt with another record close. The index is now up 9.6% for the year while the S&P 500 has climbed 6.2%.
The first two days of the trading week were highlighted by reduced trading volume as the East Coast braced for a winter storm. In addition, the looming FOMC rate decision contributed to reduced activity. Although overall trading volume on Monday and Tuesday was down about 15% from average, activity on the M&A front was alive and well, as Intel (INTC) agreed to acquire Mobileye (MBLY) for $15.30 billion in cash, paying a 34.0% premium to Mobileye's share price from the previous session.
On Wednesday, the Federal Open Market Committee raised the federal funds target range by 25 basis points to 0.75%-1.00%. This move was widely-expected going into the day of the announcement, but investors were somewhat surprised to see the Fed maintain its measured outlook. The central bank nudged up its median target rate for the end of 2019 to 3.0% from 2.9%, but left its long-run target unchanged at 3.0%.
Week In Review Stats
It is worth noting that the Fed tightened policy at a time when growth forecasts have shifted lower. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta now expects that first quarter GDP will be up only 0.9% after calling for growth of more than 3.0% at the start of February. To be fair, first quarter GDP readings have a known tendency to underperform the remaining three quarters. For her part, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said, "GDP is a pretty noisy indicator", adding that the central bank expects growth to average 2.0% over the course of 2017.
With the March hike in the books, the market's expectations are now in line with FOMC projections for two more hikes before the end of the year. The fed funds futures market sees almost no chance of a hike in May (6.4%), but is starting to price in a rate raise for June (58.3%). Looking at the remainder of the year, the fed funds futures market sees a pause into the second half, currently expected to conclude in December when the range should be boosted to 1.25%-1.50%.
Interest rates declined last week, even though the Fed raised rates; most likely a result of the measured outlook.
W. Joseph Ryan
Chief Investment Officer
The Dowling Group
Disclosures: This material represents The Dowling Group's views and opinions. These views may change without notice based on changing circumstance. The information provided should not be considered a recommendation to buy or sell any security, and should not be considered investment, legal, or tax advice. Information is obtained from sources believed to be credible and reliable, but its accuracy, completeness, and interpretation cannot be guaranteed.