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Big Headlines Drive the Markets

At first glance, last week’s headlines may lead you to think that the markets are fluctuating more than they actually are. Yes, Hillary Clinton’s emails are in the news again (more on that below)—but despite that surprise, the major indexes stuck to the same range-bound performance we’ve seen for the past three months. The S&P 500 ended down 0.69%, the NASDAQ was off 1.28%, and MSCI EAFE lost 0.44%. The Dow Jones Industrial Index eked out a 0.09% increase.[i]

Three Key Events Last Week

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A Quiet Week Ends With Indexes Up

After a two-week losing streak, U.S. indexes ended in positive territory across the board. The S&P 500 increased by 0.38%, the Dow was up 0.04%, and the NASDAQ gained 0.83%. The MSCI EAFE, a measure of international developed nations’ performance, increased 0.93%.

Of course, seeing positive weekly results is always good, but right now, the general market sentiment seems unsure about where it stands and where to go from here[ii].

Why did the markets have a sluggish week?

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Stocks Rally After Fed Stays Put on Rates

Stocks rallied again last week after the Federal Reserve voted not to raise interest rates this month. While few expected the Fed to act last week, official statements suggest the path to higher rates looks clearer. For the week, the the S&P 500 gained 1.19%, the Dow grew 0.76%, the NASDAQ added 1.17%, and the MSCI EAFE stayed stable.[i]

Let’s dig more deeply into the Fed’s recent statements. The Fed cited continued strength in the labor market, economic growth, and better wage growth in its case for higher interest rates. However, tepid inflation (largely due to lower energy prices) and a desire to get the timing right caused most of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to vote to hold rates steady.[ii]

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Stocks Drop on Interest Rate Worries

After trading flat for most of the week, stocks broadly sank Friday on fears of a future rate hike. For the week, the S&P 500 lost 2.39%, the Dow fell 2.20%, the NASDAQ dropped 2.36%, and the MSCI EAFE lost 0.16%.[i]

Monetary policy was at the forefront of investors’ minds last week as they continue to calculate the odds of an interest rate increase ahead of the September Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting.

The European Central Bank (ECB) declined to increase its stimulus program, voting to stand pat on interest rates and current bond-buying activity. The decision wasn’t a total surprise as the Eurozone economy has proved resilient after Britain voted to exit the EU. However, the ECB did confirm that it will consider further quantitative easing in 2017 if conditions worsen.[ii] No exit date for Britain has been announced, though the new prime minister has indicated it will not begin before next year.[iii]

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