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February began on a high note as investors drew encouragement from strong fourth-quarter earnings reports and encouraging employment data. However, news was not all positive. The COVID-related death toll in the United States reached 500,000. Nevertheless, two vaccines were rolled out last month, and a third one was released in March.
While rhetoric surrounding additional fiscal stimulus continued throughout the month, February saw no congressional deal reached. However, the Federal Reserve continued to offer assurances that continued accommodative measures would remain in place for the foreseeable future.
February saw crude oil and gasoline prices surge. COVID-19 hit economies hard and restricted travel, which limited the demand for oil and gas. In response, several oil-producing countries slashed oil production. However, despite economies gradually recovering and travel picking up, oil-producing nations have been slow to increase production, causing crude oil and gas prices to climb.
Last month also offered more evidence that the economy is slowly regaining some positive momentum. The employment report included the addition of about 50,000 new jobs. The number of unemployed continues to drop, but remains significantly above pre-pandemic levels. The fourth-quarter GDP advanced 4.1%. Industrial production advanced for a second consecutive month, and the housing sector maintained impressive strength.
Despite closing the month on a downturn, stocks ended February in the black. The small caps of the Russell 2000 added 6.1%, followed by the Global Dow, the Dow, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq. The Russell 2000 remains well ahead of its 2020 closing value, followed by the Global Dow, the Nasdaq, the S&P 500, and the Dow.
The market sectors ended the month mixed, with energy advancing 16.1%, followed by financials (8.4%), real estate (3.2%), industrials (3.2%), and communication services (2.6%). Both consumer discretionary and utilities lost 5.9%. Health care dropped 3.6%, followed by information technology (-2.5%), consumer staples (-1.4%), and materials (-0.2%).
The yield on 10-year Treasuries gained 37 basis points. The dollar inched ahead, and crude oil prices surged past $60.00 per barrel after climbing over 18.0% in February. Gold fell for the second consecutive month.
The national average retail price for regular gasoline was $2.633 on February 22, $0.241 higher than the January 25 selling price of $2.392, and $0.078 more than a year ago.
|MARKET/INDEX||AS OF 2/26||PRIOR MONTH||2020 CLOSE||MONTHLY CHANGE||YTD CHANGE|
|FED. FUNDS||0.00%-0.25%||0.00%-0.25%||0.00%-0.25%||0 BPS||0 BPS|
|10-YEAR TREASURIES||1.46%||1.09%||0.91%||37 BPS||55 BPS|
Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.
The Consumer Price Index climbed 0.3% in January after advancing 0.2% (revised) in December. This is the largest monthly gain since August 2020. Over the 12 months ended in January, the CPI rose 1.4%. The increase in the index was driven by a 7.4% increase in gasoline prices. The food prices rose marginally in January, edging up just 0.1%. The CPI less food and energy prices was unchanged in January, but is up 1.4% over the past 12 months. In January, prices for apparel rose 2.2% (0.9% in December), while prices for new vehicles and used cars and trucks dropped 0.5% and 0.9%, respectively.
Prices that producers receive for goods and services advanced 1.3% in January — the largest monthly increase in the history of the index. Producer prices increased 1.7% for the 12 months ended in January 2021, which is the largest yearly gain since climbing 2.0% for the 12 months ended in January 2020. Producer prices less foods, energy, and trade services rose for the ninth consecutive month after advancing 1.2% in January. Food prices increased 0.2% in January, while energy prices climbed 5.1%.
The economy continues to show signs of recovery. Decreasing numbers of COVID cases and increasing distribution of vaccines provide some measure of optimism that some semblance of normalcy is approaching. Focus will be on the FOMC, which met in March for the first time since January. The Committee could project a timeline for scaling back the quantitative easing that has been in place for more than a year.
Data sources: Economic: Based on data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (unemployment, inflation); U.S. Department of Commerce (GDP, corporate profits, retail sales, housing); S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Index (home prices); Institute for Supply Management (manufacturing/services). Performance: Based on data reported in WSJ Market Data Center (indexes); U.S. Treasury (Treasury yields); U.S. Energy Information Administration/Bloomberg.com Market Data (oil spot price, WTI, Cushing, OK); http://www.goldprice.org (spot gold/silver); Oanda/FX Street (currency exchange rates). News items are based on reports from multiple commonly available international news sources (i.e. wire services) and are independently verified when necessary with secondary sources such as government agencies, corporate press releases, or trade organizations. All information is based on sources deemed reliable, but no warranty or guarantee is made as to its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed herein constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any securities, and should not be relied on as financial advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 largest, publicly traded companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a market-value weighted index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The Russell 2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2,000 U.S. small-cap common stocks. The Global Dow is an equally weighted index of 150 widely traded blue-chip common stocks worldwide. The U.S. Dollar Index is a geometrically weighted index of the value of the U.S. dollar relative to six foreign currencies. Market indices listed are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment.
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