Investors moved out of growth stocks as next Wednesday’s Federal Reserve meeting looms. The Nasdaq led the major indexes lower with a loss of 7.55 percent, while the more value-oriented Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 4.58 percent. SPDR Consumer Discretionary (XLY) slid 8.10 percent and SPDR Technology (XLK) 6.81 percent. SPDR Utilities (XLU) slipped 0.76 percent and SPDR Consumer Staples (XLP) 1.22 percent.
Although this week met with broad selling, a year-to-date look at sectors shows what’s been driving the market. SPDR Energy has gained 12.52 percent as of Friday’s close, the only S&P 500 sector in the green. The next four sectors are SPDR Consumer Staples (XLP), Financials (XLF), Utilities (XLU) and Industrials (XLI) with declines of 1.49 percent, 2.28 percent, 3.83 percent and 4.36 percent, respectively.
The major indexes are now all in technically oversold territory. The good news is that this has typically marked a low in prior corrections. Investors should be very cautious about panic selling from these levels, particularly with the Federal Reserve meeting next week. Economists don’t expect a policy change at the Fed meeting, but they do expect the bank will signal the taper will end in March.
One of the more important assets to follow in the market is crude oil. Crude has enjoyed a near uninterrupted run from its “omicron panic” low of $62 per barrel. It closed at $85.55 on Friday, though it made a new 52-week intraday high. The Federal Reserve no doubt hopes recent weakness will spill over into the energy market. A drop in crude prices will lower interest rates along with inflation expectations, alleviating pressure on the stock market. It will also give the Fed leeway on policy implementation.
Geopolitical tensions are also putting upward pressure on oil and gas prices, as the rhetoric surrounding Russia’s intentions toward Ukraine intensifies.
Higher-quality and lower-volatility stocks outperformed this week. SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) declined 5.72 percent, but Vanguard Dividend Appreciation (VIG) dipped 4.78 percent and iShares MSCI Minimum Volatility USA (USMV) 3.52 percent.
Bond funds held up well this week. Floating-rate funds will benefit from rate hikes and as a result, Invesco Senior Loan (BKLN) slid just 0.11 percent. Vanguard Short-Term Bond (BSV) has a slightly longer duration and it fell 0.26 percent. iShares High Yield Corporate Bond (HYG) decreased 0.86 percent. Although higher interest rates would be kryptonite for long-duration bond funds such as iShares 20+ Year Treasury (TLT), that fund declined only 0.45 percent as it benefited from safe-haven buying. Short-term rates have been rising faster than long-term rates as well, a sign the bond market anticipated market volatility. The Fed influences short-term rates via its Fed funds rate, but it has very little impact on longer-term bonds.
The 10-year Treasury yield topped out at 1.87 percent mid-week before settling at 1.75 percent.
Earnings season has been solid thus far. Analysts predicted 21.40-percent growth in fourth quarter S&P 500 earnings. Accounting for the reports thus far, the blended earnings rate has risen to 21.80 percent. Companies that missed have been punished by investors, most prominently Netflix (NFLX). The stock slid 21.79 percent on Friday after it missed subscriber growth expectations.