After a brief pause in the first week of 2024, stock markets rallied last week, with all three major indexes making gains and the Nasdaq Composite leading with a notable 3% increase. The S&P 500 finished the week just shy of a record high, and a significant development occurred as Microsoft overtook Apple as the world’s most valuable company. As a new trading week begins, investors are gearing up for potential market movers, with a particular focus on financial sector results and the upcoming retail sales data.
Key Market Developments
Last week’s positive momentum marked a return to form for stocks after snapping a nine-week streak to start the year. Microsoft’s rise to become the most valuable company added an extra layer of significance to the market dynamics. Now, attention turns to maintaining this momentum in a holiday-shortened week, with US markets closed on Monday to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Retail Sales Outlook
Wednesday’s retail sales data is a key point of interest for investors, with expectations set for a 0.4% rise in December. This follows a 0.3% gain in November, showcasing the resilience of US consumers in supporting economic expansion. Bank of America’s economist, Michael Gapen, anticipates that seasonal adjustments to December’s data will contribute to a “robust” retail sales figure. While spending remains healthy, Gapen suggests that the current quarter’s GDP is on track for an annualized growth rate of 1.2%.
In addition to retail sales, investors are closely monitoring Thursday’s initial jobless claims data and Friday’s consumer sentiment report from the University of Michigan. These indicators will offer valuable insights into the state of the job market and consumer confidence, shaping expectations for the economic outlook.
Political and Geopolitical Influences
The week ahead also marks the official commencement of the 2024 US presidential election with the Iowa caucuses on Monday. Political developments can influence market sentiment, and investors will be watching for any signals that may impact specific sectors or industries.
On the geopolitical front, rising tensions in the Red Sea have drawn increased attention. Last week saw consecutive US-led airstrikes in Yemen, raising concerns and prompting investors to consider the potential market implications of escalating global conflicts.
As investors navigate a holiday-shortened week, the focus on retail sales, financial sector results, and key economic indicators is underscored by unfolding political events and geopolitical tensions. The market’s resilience, coupled with significant shifts in company valuations, sets the stage for a dynamic and potentially pivotal week, with each development carrying the potential to influence market sentiment and direction. Traders and investors will be closely monitoring these factors to make informed decisions in a rapidly evolving market landscape.