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Stocks rise on hopes that central banks will make the cut

April 9, 2024
clock 4 MIN READ

Global equity markets garnered positive returns over the first quarter of 2024, due to optimism that major central banks will begin to cut interest rates sometime this year. Investors had a positive reaction to the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) monetary policy announcement and so-called dot plot of economic projections, released in March, which indicated that the central bank remained on track to pivot to interest-rate cuts as soon as June of this year. Generally positive corporate earnings reports also bolstered the markets. This offset previous concerns that stickier-than-expected inflation data would prompt the Fed and other central banks to delay a pivot to interest-rate cuts. Developed markets outperformed their emerging-market counterparts during the quarter. North America led the major developed markets for the quarter due to notable strength in the U.S. All three major U.S. equity market indexes reached new highs late in the quarter, with the broad-market S&P 500 Index recording its strongest start to a calendar year since 2019.1 The Pacific ex. Japan region was the primary developed-market laggard, as Hong Kong and New Zealand recorded negative returns for the quarter. Europe was the top-performing region within emerging markets for the quarter, led by strength in Greece and Poland. Conversely, Latin America was the most notable underperformer due to relative weakness in Brazil and Chile.2

Global fixed-income assets, as measured by the Bloomberg Global Aggregate Bond Index, declined 2.1% in the first quarter. High-yield bonds registered modest gains for the quarter and led the U.S. fixed-income market, while U.S. Treasury securities, corporate bonds, and mortgage-backed securities recorded losses.3 Treasury yields rose across the curve—with the exception of 1- and 2-month Treasury bills—over the quarter. Yields on 2-, 3-, 5- and 10-year Treasury notes increased 0.36%, 0.39%, 0.37% and 0.32%, respectively. The spread between 10- and 2-year notes widened from –0.35% to –0.39% over the quarter, and the yield curve remained inverted.4

Global commodity prices, as measured by the Bloomberg Commodity Total Return Index, rose 2.2% for the first quarter. The West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent crude oil prices rallied during the period as ongoing geopolitical tensions in the Middle East spurred investors’ worries about a disruption in oil exports. WTI and Brent crude oil prices ended the quarter with gains of 16.0% and 13.0%, respectively. The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) natural gas price plunged 24.7% over the quarter amid slowing demand due to above average winter temperatures in the U.S. The 8.8% decline in the gold spot price was attributable to stronger-than-expected U.S. economic data and the rise in U.S. Treasury yields during the quarter. (The gold price typically moves inversely to bond yields.) Wheat prices were down 10.6% for the period amid relatively weaker demand for exports from the U.S.5

1According to The Wall Street Journal. March 29, 2024. 

2All equity market performance statements are based on the MSCI ACWI Index. 

3According to the Bloomberg US High Yield Index, the Bloomberg US Corporate Investment Grade Index, and the Bloomberg US Treasury Index. 

4According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. April 1, 2024.

This material represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events, or a guarantee of future results. This information should not be relied upon by the reader as research or investment advice regarding SEI’s portfolios or any stock in particular, nor should it be construed as a recommendation to purchase or sell a security, including futures contracts. 

There are risks involved with investing, including loss of principal. International investments may involve risk of capital loss from unfavorable fluctuation in currency values, from differences in generally accepted accounting principles or from economic or political instability in other nations. Emerging markets involve heightened risks related to the same factors as well as increased volatility and lower trading volume. Narrowly focused investments and smaller companies typically exhibit higher volatility. Bonds and bond funds will decrease in value as interest rates rise. High-yield bonds involve greater risks of default or downgrade and are more volatile than investment-grade securities, due to the speculative nature of their investments. 

Diversification may not protect against market risk. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Index returns are for illustrative purposes only and do not represent actual portfolio performance. Index returns do not reflect any management fees, transaction costs or expenses. One cannot invest directly in an index. 

Information provided by SEI Investments Management Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of SEI Investments Company (SEI).

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