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Weekly Market Update — December 1, 2018

  • The markets took giant leaps forward this week, fueled by the Fed softening its policy stance and what appears to be easing tensions between the U.S. and China ahead of the G-20 Leaders' Summit
  • Turning in the largest weekly gain for 2018, NASDAQ leapt 5.6%, the DJIA jumped 5.2%, and the S&P 500 rallied 4.9%
  • Year–to–date, all three market indices are now in positive territory
  • On Wednesday, the stock market gave investors one of its best days of the year when Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said he sees current interest rates “just below” neutral
  • This wording was a departure from language Powell used in early October, when he said that the fed funds rate was “a long way from neutral”
  • All S&P sectors finished positive this week, led by the Consumer Discretionary sector's return of 6.4%; Information Technology sector's 6.1%; Health Care sector's 5.9%, and Communication Services sector's 5.5%
  • The week's rally was also encouraged by continued favorable news from the U.S. consumer, as reports of record online Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales trickled in throughout the week
  • The Treasury yield curve saw some flattening with the 2-yr yield ending the week at 2.81% and the 10-yr yield coming to rest at 2.99%
  • WTI crude added a smidge (0.1%) and came to rest at just over $50/barrel – off over 20% this month alone
  • On Friday night, George Bush, 41st President of the United States and father of the 43rd, died at his home in Houston at the age of 94

Weekly Market Performance

The Fed's Comments Drive the Market

The stock markets turned in one of their best days of the year on Wednesday when Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said he saw interest rates “just below” neutral.

Speaking before the Economic Club of New York, Powell then added that there was no preset policy path and the Fed would be data-dependent in its decision making. The significant change in wording by Powell sent the market soaring by more than 600 points on Wednesday afternoon as investors cheered over the possibility of a slowdown in rate hikes.

Powell's exact words: “What do you do? You slow down. You maybe go a little less quickly. You feel your way. Under uncertainty of this kind, you be careful. I think that's what we've been doing.”

Then on Thursday, the Fed released the minutes from its November meetings and the markets priced in a rate hike in December as the CME FedWatch Tool puts the chances of a hike at 82.7%

Softening US China Tensions

President Trump and President Xi will be the main attraction at the upcoming G-20 meeting when they discuss trade matters.

The Wall Street Journal published an article Thursday and suggested that officials from both countries – unnamed officials of course – have been suggesting no more tariffs through the spring of 2019 so that a new round of talks could commence.

Markets in China moved a bit higher ahead of the G-20 summit. The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.3% for the week, while the large-cap CSI 300 Index rose 0.9%.

Retailers, Black Friday, & Cyber Monday

Investors were encouraged by positive sales data over the Black Friday weekend. In particular, Internet sales from Wednesday through Black Friday surged by 26.4% over the same period in 2017, according to data tracked by Adobe Systems.

Further data compiled from Adobe showed that:

  • Thanksgiving Day brought in $3.7 billion in online sales, a growth of 28% year over year
  • Black Friday brought in $6.2 billion in online sales, a growth of 23.6% year over year
  • Over 165 million people shopped over the weekend
  • Store traffic declined between 5% and 9% versus the year before

Not surprisingly, Amazon had a huge week, rising 12.5%.