Market Brief January 31, 2022

U.S. equities rallied late in volatile trading as investors worried over Fed policy, rising interest rates, and high inflation. Investors may be looking for some relief after a bumpy January. This week kicks off another busy week of economic data. Three central bank meetings are on the calendar along with the monthly U.S. jobs report.


Last Week – Fed & Inflation

Despite wild intraday gyrations in the stock market last week, the S&P 500, the Nasdaq, and the Nasdaq 100 were all basically flat for the week. But at the end of it all, that was an improvement relative to recent weeks. The market saw a huge rally on Friday, with the S&P 500 soaring 2.4%, while both the Nasdaq and QQQs rocketed 3.1% higher. It was the largest daily gain for the “500” since June 2020 and the biggest jump for the other two indices since March 2021.

The stock market finally had a winning week, the first of the year, though January remains deeply in the loss column. Equities are under pressure from inflation, supply chain, Fed decisions, and Covid-19 restrictions. Last week was one of the busiest of the 4Q earnings season. Earnings were overshadowed by the GDP data, which in turn was overshadowed by the Fed meeting. Last Tuesday, the Case-Shiller Home Price index showed unrelenting home-price inflation, with prices up 1.2% month-over-month for November and up 18.3% year-over-year. December new home sales on Wednesday came in at an 811,000 SAAR, topping expectations for 760,000.

The Federal Reserve’s policy statement from last week plus Jerome Powell’s post-meeting press conference made it abundantly clear it is ready to start raising short-term interest rates in March. The futures market is now pricing in 5 rate hikes in 2022, 25 basis points each. Some believe there could be more. This would not be surprising as the Fed is behind the inflation fighting curve. The December Consumer Price Index rose 7% in 2021, the largest yearly increase since 1981.

Week Ahead

The current week mercifully says goodbye to January, which has been the worst opening month for stocks since 2009. On Tuesday, the ISM’s manufacturing PMI is forecast to signal continued expansion. But, at a consensus 57.5 reading for January, this series is likely below the 60 level that prevailed for almost all of 2021. This results from the given current realities of inflation, supply chain, and COVID.

On Tuesday, construction spending is forecast to rise 0.7% for December. The JOLTs job openings for December is forecast to remain north of 10 million. On Wednesday, ADP’s private payrolls report is expected to come in at 225,000 for January. This is down from the prior 807,000 for December. On Thursday, economists will watch initial unemployment claims for signs that Omicron impacts are receding; from a prior 260,000, economists are looking for as few as 230,000 new initial claims. On Friday, January nonfarm payrolls are forecast up by 200,000, in line with December’s 199,000 gain. Unemployment is expected to hold steady at 3.9%. And hourly wages are forecast up 5.2% year-over-year.

Earnings season is under way and announcements expected this week include Alphabet Inc., Inc., Meta Platforms Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp, and many more. Year-to-date through Friday; the Dow is down 4.4%, S&P 500 down 7.0% and Nasdaq Composite down 12.0%.

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