The Weekly Wrap: March 20, 2023

Week in Review

Price action was mixed last week, as markets digested the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined for the sixth time in seven weeks, dragged lower by cyclical sectors like financials, industrials, and energy. Both the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ, however, rebounded sharply, helped by their exposure to growth stocks. Crude oil dropped nearly 13%, falling to its lowest level in more than a year. Commodities not exposed to economic activity, though, rallied sharply. Gold rose 6.5%, and Bitcoin jumped by a third to its highest point since last June. Interest rates were volatile during the week, falling sharply on Thursday and Friday. The US Dollar Index declined 0.9%.

Investors will be watching closely this week, as they wait to see how Fed Chair Jerome Powell and his peers respond to recent turmoil in the banking industry. On Wednesday, the FOMC will decide whether or not to continue hiking interest rates in their battle against inflation. They’ll also release an update to the Summary of Economic Projections, which details members’ internal forecasts for future activity and policy actions. Just two weeks ago, it seemed another hike of 50 basis points was inevitable. Now, even a 0.25% increase is questionable. In any case, expect Powell to face some difficult questions at his post-decision press conference. It will be his first opportunity to publicly address bank failures.

Relatively Speaking

Information Technology and Communication Services are the only two sectors that managed to gain ground over the last month, as the S&P 500 index dropped 4%. Losses were led by Financials, which dropped more than 15%. Other economically sensitive sectors also lagged, as Energy, Real Estate, and Materials each underperformed the index.

Year-to-date performances are largely the same. Growth-focused sectors like Information Technology and Communication Services are outperforming the broader index, with each up by double-digits. Energy and Financials, thought, are each down by double-digits. It’s the inverse experience of 2022, when tech-like stocks led the market selloff.

What’s Ahead

Here’s the economic calendar for the week ahead. Market watchers will be most focused on the Federal Reserve interest rate decision, scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

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