After posting six consecutive weekly gains, the stock market saw its third weekly decline of 2017. However, just like the other two weekly down-ticks, this week’s retreat was minor. The S&P 500 shed 0.4%, narrowing its first quarter gain to 6.0%.
The trading week started on an unassuming note with stocks showing limited reaction to a proposal put forth by House Republicans to replace the Affordable Care Act. President Donald Trump spoke favorably about the proposal, but Republicans in Congress have yet to fully support the effort, which has led to concerns that slow progress on the health care front would stymie corporate and personal tax reform, which the market has been anxiously awaiting.
Equity indices inched lower through the first three days of the week, but on Wednesday, it was crude oil that stole the attention, falling more than 5.0% to a fresh 2017 low near $50.30/bbl. The energy component snapped out of a five-point range that has held since the start of the year, responding to the news of yet another significant inventory build. Crude’s retreat continued over the next two days, leaving the energy component near $48.50/bbl at the end of the week. Oil lost more than 9.0% during the week while the energy sector surrendered 2.6% since last Friday.
There wasn’t much change on the central bank front as Wednesday came and went without any major surprises from the European Central Bank. It is worth noting that reports that circulated on Friday suggested the ECB may begin raising rates prior to the end of its asset purchase program. The news coincided with comments from Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, who said 2017 eurozone inflation is likely to be “far higher” than projected.
As for the Fed, the central bank is now widely expected to announce its next rate hike on March 15 after the Employment Situation report for February did not upset the overall economic picture. With the report showing the addition of 235,000 payrolls, headline expectations were beat handily while average hourly earnings increased an in-line 0.2%, bringing the year-over-year growth rate to 2.8%.
Source: Briefing Investor