Stock Market Report For Week Ended March 27, 2015
U.S. stocks post weekly decline; Dow erases 2015 gains
U.S. stocks fell this week as a batch of disappointing data stirred worries about slowing economic and earnings growth just before the start of the quarterly earnings season. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index each fell every day this week before edging higher on Friday. The four-day sell-off marked the S&P 500's longest slide since mid-January, according to Bloomberg, and pushed the Dow into the red for the year. Trading activity was relatively muted, with Monday and Tuesday ranking among the lowest-volume trading days this year.
Commerce data cast doubt on recovery
A few downbeat economic reports raised doubts about the strength of the current recovery. The U.S. economy expanded at a seasonally adjusted 2.2% annual rate in last year's final quarter, the Commerce Department reported Friday. While the latest gross domestic product reading matched the Commerce Department's prior estimate, it also showed that U.S. corporate profits posted their biggest quarterly drop in four years. For all of 2014, corporate profits fell 0.8%, the first annual decrease since 2008. Separately, durable goods orders unexpectedly tumbled in February, the latest indicator that U.S. economic growth stalled early this year.
Strong dollar, lower oil to impact earnings beyond 2015
February's durable goods report also showed that U.S. business investment spending fell for the sixth straight month, highlighting the hurtful impact of a strong dollar and lower crude oil prices on many U.S. multinational companies. Indeed, T. Rowe Price investment analysts believe that U.S. dollar appreciation and falling oil prices will remain significant drivers for corporate earnings for several quarters to come, though the impact will vary according to sector. Earnings for the S&P 500 are expected to increase 2.2% in 2015, according to FactSet, driven by earnings growth in every sector except for energy, whose earnings are forecast to tumble 55% this year.
Return of volatility positive for active managers
T. Rowe Price investment analysts also note that the CBOE Volatility Index-a gauge of expected volatility for the S&P 500 also known as the "investor fear gauge"-is approaching its historical average, after dipping to atypically low levels in recent years. Because heightened volatility creates more opportunities to buy and sell stocks at attractive prices, we are encouraged by the recent uptick in volatility, which favors active portfolio management. The increase in volatility coincides with gauges showing falling correlations in the stock market, which is also positive for active managers.