A mid-week equity rally quickly went south in the final two trading sessions. The S&P 500 and DJIA both shed in the neighborhood of 2.5% for the week, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq continued to bear the brunt of the market’s recent reticence, losing more than 3%. The CBOE Volatility Index spiked over 17, while yield on the benchmark ten-year Treasury fell ten basis points and the 30-year bond yield hit a nine-month low.
While nonfarm payrolls for March — at 192,000 — fell slightly short of expectations, the number provided further evidence that the economy may be shaking off the impact of the brutal winter. Results for January and February were restated higher by a combined 37,000. The unemployment rate held steady at 6.7%, while the labor force participation rate ticked higher to 63.2%.
It was a tough week for U.S. stocks, as relatively upbeat domestic data were offset by continued fears over China’s slowdown and lingering concerns about Russia’s intentions in Eastern Europe. While the S&P 500 and DJIA shed only a handful of basis points, the tech-heavy Nasdaq plunged nearly 3%. European and Asian stocks had more luck, posting solid gains for the week. Yield on the benchmark ten-year Treasury fell slightly, to 2.71%.
As expected, the Federal Open Market Committee announced another $10 billion of tapering and scrapped the 6.5% unemployment rate threshold in favor of more qualitative guidance. A surprise came, however, in the hawkish impression of the rate path in the summary of economic projections. When asked to clarify the statement that rates would remain unchanged “…for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends,” Chairwoman Yellen suggested a period of about six months, putting the first rate hike around April 2015, earlier than investors had expected.
It was a dismal week for equity markets, as weakness in China and escalating tensions in Ukraine sent investors in search of shelter. Yield on the benchmark ten-year Treasury fell throughout the week, while the CBOE Volatility Index rose sharply.