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Market Recap

March 15, 2024

Markets were choppy during the first half of March. By mid-month returns for the period were mixed, mostly due to declines over the last two days.

Confounding markets was the continued strong and robust economy. Last Friday, the 8th, saw the release of jobs data for the month of February. Once again the number of new jobs created surprised economists, who expected 198,000 while the actual number came in at 275,000.1 While the unemployment rate was unexpectedly higher, coming in at 3.9%, the economy appears to be expanding despite The Federal Reserve’s (the Fed’s) ‘higher for longer’ interest rates. 

Last week the Labor Department released the Producer Price Index (PPI) for the month of February. Prices for the month rose 0.6%, twice that of economists’ expectations. Year-over-year prices rose 1.6% also above economist expectations which called for 1.2%.2

This higher than expected inflation data coupled with our ‘Energizer Bunny’ economy (which just keeps going and going) makes the Fed’s job tough: how do you combat stubborn inflation while avoiding a recession?

Much attention will be paid to this week’s meeting where markets are predicting a 99% likelihood that the Fed will keep interest rates unchanged.3 Of particular interest will be comments made by Fed Chairman, Jerome Powell, at the conclusion of the meeting.

Reviewing returns for the first half of March the markets were mixed. As of market close on March 15th, the Dow fell 282 points (0.72%), the S&P 500 grew 21 points (0.41%) and the NASDAQ lost 119 points (0.74%). “Nasdaq drops 1% Friday as Nvidia tumbles, Dow closes out worst week since October” March 8, 2024 “Stocks Fall As Market Looks To Fed Meeting; Nvidia, Super Micro Drop Ahead of AI Event” March 14, 2024 “S&P 500 fall on inflation concerns, heads for weekly loss: Live updates” March 15, 2024

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