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Stock Market Report For Week Ended May 26, 2017

S&P 500 AND NASDAQ REACH NEW HIGHS

Stocks recorded good gains for the week, helping bring the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and Nasdaq Composite Index to record highs. On Friday, the S&P 500 eked out its seventh consecutive daily gain since selling off following revelations about the FBI's investigation of potential Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. Growth-oriented technology and consumer discretionary shares performed particularly well. Oil prices fell over 5% and energy stocks took a sharp turn lower on Thursday, following OPEC’s announcement that it was extending production cuts nine months but not deepening them, as some had hoped, or prolonging them even further.

NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS

T. Rowe Price traders attributed much of the week’s gains to the phenomenon of “no news is good news,” at least in terms of market-moving events. The beginning of the week saw few earnings reports, little economic data, and a relative lack of political controversy. They also noted that the market continued to exhibit the signs of ample “dry powder” being deployed to buy on the dips. Interested private-equity buyers, elevated cash balances in mutual funds, and corporations ready to buy back their own stock all supported gains.

Neither the stock nor the bond market reacted strongly to Wednesday’s release of the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s May meeting, which seemed to change few minds about the likely path of further interest rate hikes. T. Rowe Price Chief U.S. Economist Alan Levenson notes, however, that Fed officials were particularly focused on whether the first-quarter slowdown in growth would be reversed in the second quarter. The Fed will only have about half of the data it needs to make that judgment by the time of its June meeting, he observes, raising the possibility that policymakers may delay their next hike until September.

LONG-TERM RATES STEADY, BUT FED PLANNING TO LOOSEN DOWNWARD PRESSURE ON YIELDS

Fed officials also discussed their intention to gradually reduce reinvestment of payments on the central bank's holdings of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities, which may put upward pressure on longer-term interest rates. With such a change still months away, however, longer-term Treasury yields were largely range-bound for the week on light volumes. News on Friday that the U.S. economy had expanded a bit more than originally anticipated in the first quarter failed to move yields as investors seemed to ignore the backward-looking data. Municipal bonds advanced, supported by strong demand that outpaced new issuance.

Robust demand mitigated the impact of heavy new issuance during the first half of the week and contributed to supportive technical conditions in the investment-grade corporate bond market. However, demand from investors in Asia was conspicuously light throughout the week. Traders noted increased selling as many portfolios made room for new deals, while secondary market inventories remain elevated heading into the holiday weekend.

High yield market participants mainly focused on the primary calendar over the past week. The overall tone was firm as investors responded favorably to the new deals and deployed cash, but the secondary market saw light volumes. Energy-related bonds experienced some weakness after OPEC announced smaller-than-expected production cuts.

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