Stock Market Report For Week Ended October 9, 2015
Stocks see best weekly gain in months
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index recorded its strongest weekly gain in several months as investors appeared to grow more confident that the Federal Reserve would not raise interest rates in 2015. The small-cap Russell 2000 and S&P MidCap 400 Indexes outperformed their large-cap counterparts, while some weakness in technology shares was partly responsible for the Nasdaq Composite lagging the other benchmarks. The Nasdaq ended the week as the only index with a gain for the year-to-date period, however. All of the major benchmarks had reversed the recent correction by Friday and moved within 10% of the all-time highs they established earlier in the year.
Technical factors may have played a role
Stocks moved higher through much of the week, which T. Rowe Price traders attributed partly to technical factors, such as the need of hedge funds and other speculative traders to cover "short" positions—or bets that a stock will lose value. The week's calendar of economic data was relatively light, and investors appeared to shrug off a moderately disappointing report on activity in the services sector. Most data suggest that the services sector remains healthy, even as global weakness has taken a toll on the much smaller U.S. manufacturing sector. In a recent interview with MarketWatch, T. Rowe Price industrials analyst Andrew Davis noted that recent freight data indicate that the industrials sector may have entered a recessionary phase, even as the overall economy continues to grow.
Hopes rise that Fed will wait until 2016 to increase rates
Indeed, bad economic news may have served, once again, as good market news for many investors, as conviction appeared to grow that slowing job gains and global economic concerns would push back the first Fed rate hike to 2016. Stocks rallied Thursday afternoon, following the release of minutes from the Fed's mid-September policy meeting, which showed that officials had harbored concerns about the effect of the global slowdown on the U.S. economy even before the previous week's disappointing jobs report. One Fed official acknowledged in an interview that the report had caused him to be on the lookout for further weak data, although he thought a rate increase by December was still likely.
Materials and energy earnings likely to tumble
The third-quarter earnings reporting season kicked off during the week with a somewhat disappointing result from metals giant Alcoa on Thursday. Data and analytics firm FactSet reports that analysts have lowered their earnings estimates for energy and materials firms more than for any other sectors in recent months.
Energy rally may prove short-lived
The outlook for materials and energy firms brightened somewhat during the week, however, as oil and other commodity prices recovered a portion of their sharp recent losses. Energy stocks rallied Wednesday, although T. Rowe Price traders saw little reason for the move in improving fundamentals. Generally, T. Rowe Price energy analysts and managers believe that oil prices are likely to remain under pressure for some time, partly because technological advances will continue to reduce the cost of production.