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Stock Surge on Wall Street as Federal Reserve Signals Rate Cuts


Leo Gonzalez

March 20, 2024 - 20:23 pm


Bull Market Unleashed: Wall Street Hits Record Highs and Anticipates Rate Cuts

Robust Rally on Wall Street Propelled by Fed's Rate Cut Indications

On the morning of March 20, 2024, Wall Street traders witnessed stocks propelling to unprecedented all-time highs, fueled by indications from the Federal Reserve that it is on the brink of reducing interest rates for the first time since the pandemic's commencement. The S&P 500 soared, eclipsing the 5,200 mark amid foreseen speculation about the waning of one of the most aggressive Fed hiking cycles witnessed by a generation—anticipating a reinforcement of the profitability of Corporate America. A surge in equity gains, almost broad-based across market segments, became evident as even those sectors such as small caps, which had previously lagged, experienced a robust rally. Short-term Treasuries showed remarkable performance, with market traders now assimilating greater probabilities of a rate cut surfacing as early as June.

Federal Reserve officials relayed a consistent outlook for three rate cuts within the year, while concurrently transitioning towards decelerating the pace at which they are reducing their bond holdings. This strategy appears to stem from the viewpoint that the recent upward movement in inflation is not a source of alarm. Jerome Powell, the Fed Chair, emphasized a desire to witness more substantial evidence of the decline in prices. However, he also conveyed that it would be fitting to commence easing “at some point this year.”

Chris Zaccarelli, a representative at Independent Advisor Alliance, summarized the Federal Reserve's recent press conference with optimism. He stated, "The sum total of this ‘no news is good news’ press conference is that markets continue to have a green light to run higher. This Fed isn’t going to stand in the way of the bull market." Meanwhile, the technology-fueled Nasdaq 100 climbed a significant 1.2 percent, as two-year yields saw a dip by seven basis points landing at 4.6 percent, and the U.S. dollar witnessed a retreat.

Wall Street's Perceptive Reactions to Federal Reserve's Moves

Krishna Guha of Evercore ISI observed no abrupt fluctuations this time, pointing out that Fed Chair Powell’s March press conference carried and even amplified the bullish-dovish narrative initiated by the previous set of Fed releases. "The big takeaway here is that we’re seeing a Fed that’s poised to cut rates—not prematurely, but just as soon as it's deemed responsible, with a fairly consistent base case for three cuts within this year, and sights still set on June," Guha explained.

Sonu Varghese from Carson Group spoke of the details released as particularly dovish because they do not rule out rate cuts even while projecting inflation to rise slightly and anticipates more robust economic growth. Similarly, Neil Birrell at Premier Miton Investors remarked on the Fed's goal for a smooth economic deceleration, calling it a tactical move aimed at achieving a 'soft landing.'

Principal Asset Management's Seema Shah criticized the Fed's Summary of Economic Projections, suggesting that the Federal Reserve is prepared to embark on rate reductions even before inflation nears its target and despite GDP growth being above trend. Shah cautioned that history has shown this approach to be fraught with risks.

In contrast, Whitney Watson at Goldman Sachs Asset Management highlighted sensibility in the face of inflation volatilities. "Despite recent bumps in the inflation road, major central banks are poised for rate cuts in the following months, which bodes well for high-quality fixed-income bonds," Watson mentioned.

Michelle Cluver at Global X termed the data set encouraging, noting it enhanced market expectations that the Federal Reserve might lower interest rates as soon as the upcoming June FOMC meeting.

Jason Pride of Glenmede accentuated the virtue of patience, which appears to be the Fed's current strategy, reminding that the central bank still targets inflation firmly. "Investors should brace for rate cuts to enter the spotlight once the Federal Reserve gains more confidence that inflation is converging towards its 2 percent aim, possibly in the latter half of this year," Pride stated.

Spotlight on Corporate Affairs

Intel Corp. has been allocated a substantial grant of US$8.5 billion and potential loans amounting up to $11 billion. This financial support is intended to fuel the expansion of its semiconductor factories, constituting the most considerable award from a governmental program dedicated to rejuvenating the domestic chip industry.

Boeing Co. faces financial strain, with forecasts indicating a substantial cash outflow for the first quarter. Regulatory examination and the slowed production of its 737 Max jetliner, compounded by a mid-air accident in January, continues to exert pressure on the firm's financial status.

Potential optimism surrounds Reddit Inc.'s impending initial public offering (IPO), with sources close to the matter suggesting the social media giant could set its IPO pricing at the zenith of its marketed range, or perhaps even higher.

Short seller Hindenburg Research has directed its critical analysis towards data center proprietor Equinix Inc., alleging accounting manipulation and selling of an unfounded “AI pipe dream.” Equinix has responded, indicating they are probing into these allegations.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. has proposed an extensive stock split at a ratio of 50-to-1, in an effort to widen its base of investors, riding on the impressive surge of stock value by 13,000 percent since its initial offering on the public market.

Further in the financial sector, JPMorgan Chase & Co. has made an unanticipated decision to boost its dividend by 9.5 percent, following a historical record of annual profit and amid signals from regulators considering a revision of proposals for stiffer capital regulations.

Key Economic and Financial Events to Watch

Investors are also keeping close tabs on key events later this week, which include service and manufacturing PMI figures from the Eurozone, the Bank of England's rate decision, U.S. leading indexes, home sales data, and initial jobless claims. Additionally, earnings reports from Nike and FedEx are highly anticipated.

Countries such as Japan and Germany are not far behind, with the former's Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the latter's business climate index being essential data releases to monitor. Conversations by the Federal Reserve leaders, including Atlanta's Raphael Bostic, and ECB's officers like Robert Holzmann and Philip Lane, are also poised to draw significant attention.

Market Movements at a Glance

The stock market's resilience was manifested through a notable uplift across major indices. The S&P 500 saw a rise of 0.9 percent by the close in New York, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and MSCI World index not far behind, recording a 1 percent and 0.8 percent increase, respectively.

In currency markets, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell by 0.4 percent, while the euro and British pound saw a respective rise of 0.5 percent against the dollar. The Japanese yen, conversely, recorded a dip of 0.3 percent.

Cryptocurrencies displayed vitality, with Bitcoin and Ether rising by 3.1 and 2.9 percent, reaching impressive valuations of $65,714.01 and $3,375.02, respectively.

Bond yields indicated a modest yet noteworthy shift, with a minimal decline in the 10-year Treasury yield, while both Germany and Britain experienced a decrement in their respective 10-year yields.

Lastly, commodity trackers noted West Texas Intermediate crude oil falling by 2.1 percent to $81.68 a barrel, whereas spot gold witnessed an ascent of 1.2 percent, trading at $2,183.50 an ounce.

The developments that transpired on Wall Street on March 20, 2024, will undoubtedly have lasting effects in shaping the economic landscape. With the Federal Reserve's intentions and corporate maneuvers closely scrutinized by market participants, the anticipation of a dynamic financial period ahead remains at an all-time high.