The major domestic equity indexes gave up early gains on Thursday as bond yields rose and technology stocks retreated ahead of a host of high-profile earnings.
It has been a rocky week for Wall Street with mostly robust earnings met by rising bond yields as world central banks back away from easy monetary policy. The benchmark S&P 500 stock index is on track for its first weekly decline in five weeks
The Federal Reserve held the fed funds target rate steady on Wednesday but indicated it was concerned about inflation rising. Meanwhile, Treasury yields continued to rise after economic indicators seemed to confirm the Fed’s inflation views.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits were below expectations, indicating a tight labor market, while the Institute of Supply Management data showed prices paid by domestic factories hitting a near 7-year high, and fourth-quarter labor costs increased by 2.0 percent, adding to inflation concerns.
Banks, which benefit from higher interest rates, led the S&P 500 financials index to a 1.0 percent gain, with Goldman Sachs helping to push the Dow into positive territory.
Other notable stock movers included eBay up 13.8 percent after its earnings report, and its announcement that it would move away from PayPal as its main payments partner. PayPal shares slid 8.1 percent.
UPS was down 6.1 percent after it reported fourth-quarter earnings that felt the effect of higher holiday season shipping costs. The company was the second-largest percentage loser on the S&P 500.
Analysts see fourth-quarter S&P 500 company earnings growth of 14.9 percent, up from 12 percent expected on January 1. So far, of 227 companies that have reported, 79.7 percent have come in above Street estimates.
Tech companies reporting after the closing bell include Amazon up over 6.0 percent in afterhours trading, Alphabet down nearly 3.0 percent in extended trade after its quarterly earnings and Apple down 1.0 percent after posting results.
Approximately 7.80 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, a number that was above the 7.23 billion share average for the last 20 trading days.
Crude Prices Rise
The prices for crude oil moved higher on Thursday, as OPEC’s commitment to its supply cuts remains in place, even as our domestic production topped 10 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first time since 1970.
On its first day as the front-month, Brent futures for April delivery were up 52 cents, or 0.8 percent, at $69.41 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for March delivery was up 78 cents, or 1.2 percent, at $65.51. Both benchmarks rose for a fifth month in a row in January with Brent up 3.3 percent and WTI up 7.1 percent, marking the strongest start to a year for Brent in five years and WTI in 12 years.
Oil output in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) rose in January from eight-month lows as higher output from Nigeria and Saudi Arabia offset declines in Venezuela and strong compliance with the OPEC-led supply pact, according to a Reuters survey.
Oil output in Venezuela has been declining amid an economic crisis. The country produced about 1.6 million bpd in January, according to the Reuters survey, putting its output well below what it pledged to cut.
While OPEC complies with its production cut agreement, our domestic crude output surpassed 10 million bpd in November for the first time since 1970, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
Also supporting Thursday’s crude market was a note from Goldman Sachs raising their oil price target for their three-month forecast for Brent to $75 from $62 and its six-month forecast to $82.50 from $75.
Oil prices, however, are unlikely to advance much above $70 a barrel in 2018, given the tug of war between OPEC and our domestic shale industry, a Reuters poll showed on Wednesday.
The January Effect
One of the oldest Wall Street adages dictates: “So goes January, goes the year.” After the S&P 500’s gain of almost 6 percent in the first month of 2018, that should mean the rest of the year will follow suit.
Since 1950, there have been only nine major contradictions to the so-called January Barometer, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac whose founder, Yale Hirsch, devised the indicator in 1972.
To be sure, investors list several risks in the market. However, there remains considerable optimism the full year 2018 will follow January, with help from earnings-boosting corporate tax cuts and from economic data showing solid global growth trends.
In the past, big outside events skewed the outcome, according to the Almanac, which cited issues such as the Vietnam war in 1966 and 1968, interest rate increases and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as well as the anticipation of military action in Iraq in 2003.
When January was negative in both 1982 and 2009, the S&P registered full-year gains. August 1982 saw the start of a bull market and the current bull market began in March 2009.
In all the years when the S&P 500 rose more than 5 percent in January, the year’s return has never been negative. That is not to say there was not some volatility. The average peak-to-trough correction was 10.7 percent, while the smallest intra-year pullback was 4.4 percent.