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“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” – Michelangelo

Morning stock market summary

Below is a snippet of commentary from today’s Morning Lineup. Start a two-week trial to Bespoke Premium to view the full report.  

After a relatively rough day yesterday, futures have been bouncing back this morning with the Nasdaq trading up about 0.8% and the S&P 500 up by a more modest 0.4%.  The ADP Employment report for February just came out, and it showed modestly lower-than-expected job growth (140K vs 150K), but investors are more focused on the 10 AM testimony of Fed Chair Powell before Congress.  Will he say anything to jawbone the markets?

We’ve highlighted a version of the chart below multiple times in our discussion of Fed rate cuts and the market, and it illustrates the fact that as much as people want to credit (or blame) the Fed for the market rally since the October lows, it hasn’t been the case.  While the early stages of the rally did coincide with the market pricing in a higher number of 25 basis point (bps) rate cuts by the December 2024 meeting, that reading peaked in early January at just under seven.  In the nearly two months since then, the number of cuts priced in for December has been more than cut in half, yet stocks kept rallying.  If the rally was just about rate cuts, we’d be closer to 4,000 on the S&P 500 now rather than above 5,000.

Back in early December, when the market was pricing in cuts as soon as April, we noted that no rate cuts by then would be “the best thing for the market”. The reasoning was that by the Fed just pivoting and moving to the sidelines and no longer actively looking to kneecap economic growth, it was enough for the market to embrace the good news is good again mentality.  If the Fed had to come in and cut rates so soon, it would have only meant that something was going wrong in the economy.

This brings us to yesterday’s market decline. While stocks opened the day lower, the weakness was modest…until just after the 10 AM release of Factory Orders, Durable Goods, and ISM Services.  All the reports were weaker than expected, including the ISM Services report which showed a contraction in employment.  Immediately, after the release, the market had a Pavlovian response of briefly trading higher, but within seconds, stocks reversed and traded lower throughout the day, finishing down just over 1% in what was the third weakest day this year. The market was overbought and due for a breather heading into yesterday, but the weaker-than-expected slug of economic data didn’t help.

For more analysis of global equities and economic readings released this morning, read today’s full Morning Lineup with a two-week Bespoke Premium trial.

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