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Market Shivers: S&P 500’s Worst Start Since 2015 Amid Rate Cut Hopes and Surprising Jobs Data

Market Update - Daniel Ang The Accidental Trader Traders Academy International 4

The first week of 2024 has witnessed a turbulent start in the financial markets. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite closed lower for the third consecutive day on Thursday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average managed a marginal gain, reflecting mixed signals from recent economic data and Federal Reserve policies.

Key Points:

  • 📉 S&P 500’s Rocky Start: Marking its worst opening since 2015, the S&P 500 dipped amid tech sector profit-taking and uncertain rate cut expectations.
  • 📊 Jobs Data Jitters: Surpassing expectations, December’s ADP National Employment report showed robust hiring, conflicting with higher-than-expected unemployment claims.
  • 💵 Dollar Dynamics: The U.S. Dollar rebounded slightly following the Fed’s December meeting minutes, dampening expectations for immediate rate cuts.

In a somewhat shaky start to the new year, Wall Street saw mixed fortunes on Thursday, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite extending their downtrend, and the Dow Jones scraping a narrow victory. The S&P 500’s slump, down 0.34% to 4,688.68 points, marks its most challenging start since 2015. This downturn is partly attributed to the tech investors cashing in on the late 2023 rally, fueled by anticipations of Federal Reserve rate reductions.

The Federal Reserve’s December meeting minutes offered limited guidance on when rate easing might commence, leaving investors guessing. The market had largely banked on these reductions following the year-end surge in 2023. However, the labor market, showing unexpected vigor, muddled the picture. The ADP report indicated robust hiring in December, a precursor to the keenly awaited non-farm payrolls data.

Contrasting this, the Labor Department reported a higher count of unemployment claims, an indication of an undercurrent of labor market instability. The Nasdaq Composite, heavy with tech stocks, dropped by 0.56%, while the Dow Jones edged up by a mere 0.03%.

Currency markets saw the U.S. Dollar regaining some ground after initial slides, with traders scaling back on aggressive rate cut bets for the year. The FOMC meeting minutes hinted at a need for sustained higher borrowing costs, challenging the likelihood of a March rate cut. The Dollar Index’s recovery is notable, already marking a 1% increase this year.

In the foreign exchange landscape, major currencies like the EUR/USD, GBP/USD, and AUD/USD displayed varied expectations. EUR/USD is projected to rise to $1.12 over 12 months, while the GBP/USD is forecasted for a 1.5% increase. The USD/JPY, on the other hand, might see a 6.6% decline.

The commodities sector experienced its share of fluctuations. Gold prices stabilized after consecutive declines, with spot gold at $2,044.39/oz, and COMEX gold futures slightly higher. Silver inched up to $23.00/oz. Crude oil prices closed lower, influenced by large stock builds and tepid fuel demand, with Brent crude settling at $77.59 and WTI at $72.19.

In the realm of digital assets, Bitcoin (BTC/USD) witnessed a dramatic recovery post a sharp sell-off triggered by SEC rumors regarding Bitcoin ETF applications. Analysts speculate that approval of a spot BTC ETF could significantly broaden BTC’s market exposure, potentially tapping into a $14 trillion market. Currently, BTC trades around $44,245, underscoring its volatile yet crucial role in the broader financial landscape.

This week’s market movements epitomize the complex interplay of economic indicators, policy expectations, and investor sentiment, setting a precedent for an unpredictable yet intriguing 2024 in the financial markets.

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