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Stock Market Report For Week Ended February 17, 2017


Stocks posted gains for the week, with the large-cap Dow Jones Industrial Average generating the best returns while the small-cap Russell 2000 Index lagged. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index extended its record-breaking streak without a daily change of plus or minus 1%. However, the CBOE Volatility Index of intraday volatility, known as the VIX, ticked upward even as the streak of curiously low daily price swings remained intact.


U.S. economic data released during the week were generally strong. Core retail sales increased 0.6% in January and the core consumer price index rose 0.3% during the month, while readings on business sentiment from the National Federation of Independent Business and the New York Federal Reserve were strong for January and early February. Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s congressional testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday was generally interpreted as hawkish, raising the odds of a rate increase at a Fed policy meeting before June. However, T. Rowe Price Chief U.S. Economist Alan Levenson believes that the Fed will hold off on its next rate hike until its June meeting, strengthening its forward guidance about a June rate increase in the meantime.

The increasing expectations for the Fed to move rates higher sooner rather than later boosted the financials sector to solid returns, led by banks that would benefit the most from higher interest margins as short-term rates increase. Strong performance from biotechnology and pharmaceutical stocks drove gains for the health care sector. T. Rowe Price traders noted that the factors behind the move in biotech and pharmaceuticals, which have significantly lagged the broad market in recent months, were less clear.


U.S. Treasury yields finished the week little changed as a Friday rally drove yields lower, offsetting yield increases earlier in the week. (Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.) Investment-grade corporate bonds benefited from a manageable level of new issuance and equity market strength, although T. Rowe Price bond traders noted that investors seemed hesitant to add to riskier holdings in the secondary market. High yield bonds also generated gains as investors continued to move money into the asset class in search of yield.

Municipal bonds declined despite a relatively light new issuance calendar. The yield on 10-year benchmark municipal debt increased to its highest level in 2017. However, the municipal market improved toward the end of the week as Treasuries rallied.

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