Stock Report For Week Ended April 11, 2014
Stocks fall sharply as investors turn away from companies with steep valuations
Stocks suffered their largest weekly decline since January as investors sold companies with especially high valuations and braced themselves for a disappointing corporate earnings season. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite proved particularly volatile, declining 3.1% for the week and ending roughly 8.5% below its mid-March peak. The smaller-cap indexes also saw large losses for the week. Despite recent declines, the large-cap indexes ended the week only a few percentage points below their all-time highs—well within the 10% threshold widely considered to denote a market "correction."
Biotechs reach "bear market" territory
Continuing a trend that has been in place since late March, investors continued to sell fast-growing, high-valuation "momentum" stocks in favor of defensive stocks with attractive dividends. The selling was particularly intense among biotechnology shares, which were among the market's top performers in 2013. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index fell into what is considered "bear market" territory, declining by over 20% from its highs as of early Friday.
T. Rowe Price managers still see long-term opportunities in Internet-related companies
Selling was also prevalent among Internet-related stocks, which had been exceptionally strong performers in recent months. T. Rowe Price portfolio managers with a focus in Internet-related sectors such as telecommunications, technology, and media have not been surprised to see a pullback in valuations, even if they could not predict its timing. They believe that the long-term growth drivers remain in place for many of these companies, however, although the current rotation away from these and other highly priced stocks may continue for some time.
Earnings set to decline in first quarter
The onset of first-quarter earnings reporting season was another source of concern for investors. Aluminum giant Alcoa provided a lift to the markets at midweek after reporting better-than-expected adjusted earnings, but disappointing bank results on Friday dragged the broad indexes lower. Most analysts expect earnings for companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index as a whole to decline slightly from the same period last year before rebounding in the second quarter.
Fed minutes help cushion declines
The Federal Reserve provided a small cushion for the week's declines in the form of minutes from its last policy meeting. Some investors worried that policymakers had emerged from the meeting encouraged about recent job gains and were ready to raise short-term interest rates earlier than most expected. The minutes indicated that officials remained convinced that labor markets still needed time to heal, however. T. Rowe Price Chief Economist Alan Levenson believes that the first rate hike is unlikely until the middle of next year.