Last week, investors multi-tasked, pushing both U.S. bond and stock markets higher.
In March, the Federal Reserve raised the Fed funds rates for the second time in three months. Typically, we would expect interest rates to rise and bond prices to fall, but interest rates have been falling and bond prices have been moving higher. Barron’s reported yields on 10-year Treasuries hit their lowest levels since the election last week.
Reuters explained there has been a shift in expectations:
“Bonds prices have been boosted in recent weeks by reduced expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates two more times this year, following disappointing economic data releases. Still, Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer said on Friday that two more U.S. rate increases this year remain an appropriate plan for the Federal Reserve despite some weak recent economic data.”
Geopolitical anxiety continued to play a role in market performance, too, causing investors to flee to safe havens, which contributed to bond market strength.
Geopolitics didn’t cause U.S. stock markets to swoon, though. Barron’s reported:
“Stocks’ on-again, off-again rally was on again last week, and it took the Standard & Poor’s 500 index to within sniffing distance of its March 1 record. Climbing in the face of geopolitical anxiety from Paris to Pyongyang is bullish, as is preserving the upward slope of the index’s 200-day average. But there are signs of wavering conviction…”
That wavering conviction is found in investors’ preference for a small group of tech stocks, as well as more defensive sectors of the market. Through mid-April, just 10 stocks accounted for one-half of the S&P 500’s gain during 2017.
A possible motto for 2017: Expect the unexpected.