Stock Report For Week Ended November 21, 2014
Global growth hopes drive fifth week of gains
The large-cap Standard & Poor's 500 Index notched its fifth weekly gain and moved to record highs as investors appeared to celebrate news of economic stimulus measures overseas. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index lagged the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average, which both got a boost late in the week from a bounce in oil prices and energy shares. The small-cap Russell 2000 Index lagged the other benchmarks for the week and remained the weakest performer for the year to date.
Japan delays consumption tax to deal with recession
While developments in the U.S. economy often tend to drive global markets, Wall Street appeared to be especially outward looking over the week, rallying in response to hopes for better growth in three different parts of the world. Before U.S. trading began on Monday, the Japanese government revealed that the country's economy had contracted for a second consecutive quarter—crossing the commonly accepted threshold of being in recession. While Japanese stocks initially sunk on the news, investors eventually appeared to welcome the promise of further stimulus. In fact, the government announced that it was pushing back an increase in the consumption tax planned for next year.
Hopes for more monetary action in Europe
Coordinated fiscal action to revive the European economy has been more difficult to achieve, but investors also welcomed signs that the eurozone's central bank was prepared to enact more monetary stimulus. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi appeared to move U.S. markets at two points during the week by promising aggressive action to boost inflationary expectations in the eurozone.
China slowing but likely to avoid a "hard landing"
The biggest overseas driver for U.S. gains might have been China's surprise move before markets opened in New York on Friday to cut interest rates—the first such cut in two years. T. Rowe Price's Hong Kong-based managers and analysts expect the Chinese economy to slow in 2015 as it tries to stimulate domestic growth, but they believe that policymakers will successfully avoid the "hard landing" of an abrupt slowdown. They also believe that growth elsewhere in the region will pick up in 2015, particularly in countries that have elected reform-minded leaders.
U.S. economy remains on track
U.S. growth signals might have also played a role in the week's gains, if a secondary one. Investors were encouraged by an increased reading of homebuilder confidence, and an index of mid-Atlantic factory activity surprised observers by reaching its highest level in over two decades. Weekly jobless claims also reached their most favorable level in years, remaining below 300,000 for the first time since 2000, when the total pool of workers was smaller.