Stock Report For Week Ended February 27, 2015
Stocks modestly higher; Nasdaq nears record territory
Most of the major benchmarks established record highs on Friday, before falling back a bit to end the week mixed. At its peak on Friday, the Nasdaq stood within roughly 2.8% of the all-time intraday high it established in March 2000, although the index remained well below its peak on an inflation-adjusted basis. The small-cap Russell 2000 Index also performed well and ended the week with better year-to-date gains than the large-cap benchmarks—a notable break from its relatively poor performance in 2014.
Dovish Fed boosts sentiment
Although price swings were relatively moderate in either direction, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index saw its biggest gains on Tuesday, following Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's appearance before Congress. Many investors interpreted her comments as supportive of continued low interest rates and thus higher stock multiples (price-to-earnings ratios). Some were particularly encouraged to hear Yellen's assurance that any small change in the Fed's post-meeting statements-which have stated that policymakers will be "patient" in normalizing monetary policy—should not be interpreted as a sign of impending rate increases.
Energy stocks lag as oil prices tumble on Thursday
Energy stocks performed poorly at the end of the week, due mainly to a sharp drop in oil prices on Thursday. A rise in U.S. inventories sent the price of West Texas Intermediate crude down over 5% for the day, even as global oil prices held on to recent gains due to declining production in Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere. Overall U.S. production has remained surprisingly robust, as producers have mainly chosen to take unproductive rigs offline. T. Rowe Price energy portfolio managers and analysts believe that lower prices will eventually weed out the more inefficient producers, while stronger competitors will also benefit from the declining cost of extraction.
Good news about business spending, but consumer likely to drive growth in 2015
The week's economic data were mixed and did not appear to play a major role in driving sentiment. The government announced Friday that the economy had grown a little less than first estimated in the final quarter of 2014, even as consumer spending increased at its fastest pace in nearly four years. T. Rowe Price Chief U.S. Economist Alan Levenson notes that a decline in inventory building was largely to blame for the downward revision, while business capital spending actually increased considerably more than first estimated.