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July 19, 2024
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Gold, bitcoin and stocks hit record highs this week. Then came inflation data

Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on March 4, 2024 in New York City.

New York

Stocks started the week on a high note. Now, things are looking a little dimmer.

The S&P 500 index on Tuesday reached a record high close for the 17th time this year, as investors shrugged off a higher-than-expected 3.2% annual rise in consumer prices and cheered a cooldown in some categories like food prices.

Stocks weren’t the only winners. Gold settled at a record high of $2,188.60 a troy ounce on Monday, as investors become more confident that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates by June. Bitcoin also reached a record high, topping $73,000 a coin.

But stocks began shedding some of their gains mid-week on renewed concerns about inflation, and both the yellow metal and cryptocurrency have also retreated from their recent milestones.

The Dow fell 206 points, or 0.5%, midday Friday. The S&P 500 declined 0.7% and the Nasdaq Composite fell 1%.

The latest Producer Price Index, released Thursday, revealed that US wholesale inflation rose 1.6% for the 12 months ended in February, its fastest clip in months, due to a spike in energy prices. That sent the Dow tumbling more than 300 points at its lowest point on Thursday, before paring losses.

“This situation isn’t just a blip on the radar; we’re seeing a trend that’s veering away from where we hoped to be heading, especially given the Fed’s clear intention to see inflation trends improve,” wrote Ken Tjonasam, portfolio strategist at Global X, in a note on Thursday.

Airline stocks have also been pummeled this week, as years of safety issues at Boeing continue to plague the industry. A Latam Airlines 787 Dreamliner flying from Australia to New Zealand lost altitude suddenly mid-flight, possibly due to a mistake in the cockpit, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

In addition, Southwest Airlines said Boeing notified the airline that it will deliver 46 Max 8 deliveries in 2024, 12 fewer than previously expected. The airline also said that it is not providing full-year guidance at this time.

Switching airplane manufacturers isn’t easy for airlines, since pilots are certified on either Airbus or Boeing, who make up the duopoly.

“Boeing needs to become a better company, and the deliveries will follow that,” Southwest CEO Robert Jordan said at the JPMorgan Chase industrials conference on Tuesday.

The NYSE Arca Global Airline index, which tracks the performance of major American and overseas airlines, is on track to end the week 2.2% lower. Boeing shares have fallen 7.7%, and Southwest shares have dropped roughly 18%.

Only the Dow is on track to end the week higher now. But Liz Young, head of investment strategy at SoFi, notes that the S&P 500 hasn’t seen a one-day decline of 2% or more since last February. That marks the longest stretch for that achievement since February 2018, she says.

Young says that signal doesn’t mean the market’s headed for a selloff, or that it’s headed toward more gains. “It’s simply a testament to how strong the market has been for over a year, particularly during a time when many were expecting a recession,” she wrote in a blog post on Thursday.

Investors will have more economic data and corporate events to chew on next week.

Artificial intelligence darling Nvidia will host its global artificial intelligence conference for developers from March 18 to 21, with a keynote speech from CEO Jensen Huang on the docket.

AI up-and-comer Super Micro Computer will join the benchmark S&P 500 index on Monday. Shares of the company have risen roughly 289% so far this year.

The Federal Reserve begins its two-day policy meeting on March 19. Markets expect the central bank to hold rates steady this month and begin cutting in June or July, according to the CME FedWatch Tool.

Investors will keep a close watch on its latest Summary of Economic Projections. The release will contain the Fed’s latest dot plot, which charts the interest rate expectations over the next few years from each member of the Federal Open Market Committee. The Fed in December projected three quarter-point rate cuts for 2024.

Wall Street will also parse a slate of fresh data on the housing market next week, including the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, housing starts data from the Census Bureau and the monthly existing home sales report from the National Association of Realtors.

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