Week in Review: Equities Continue to Roll

For the week ending 24 February 2017

  • US equities set more records
  • Fed signals possible March rate hike
  • Trump supports US border tax
  • Le Pen gains in French polls
  • Greece open to reforms

US equities continued setting records this week — including 10 record daily closing highs in a row for the Dow Jones Industrial Average as of 23 February. Investors remain optimistic that US president Donald Trump will cut taxes, reduce regulation and implement a sweeping infrastructure spending program. The S&P 500 Index is up 5.3% year to date and has gained over 21% over the past 12 months. Market volatility increased slightly this week, but continued to remain relatively low. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury bond fell 2.9% this week to 2.34%, as of early Friday morning. Oil prices remained relatively unchanged this week.

GLOBAL MACRO NEWS

Fed signals potential March rate hike

In minutes released this week, US Federal Reserve officials signaled the potential for a rate hike at its next policy meeting in March. Citing potentially increased spending and reduced taxation under the Trump administration, the minutes suggest that the Fed may act more aggressively to keep a lid on inflation. The central bank increased the federal funds rate to between 0.5% and 0.75% in December and indicated then the potential for three quarter-percentage-point increases this year. Markets are expecting two rate hikes in 2017, and while odds of an increase have risen for March, they still remain low, at around 22%, according to data from CME.

Trump voices support for border tax
Donald Trump said this week that he supports a form of the proposed "border adjustment tax" (BAT), a tax on all imports. Trump suggested that such a tax would entice companies to relocate manufacturing operations to the United States, which would create more US jobs. Retail stocks have been pummeled in recent months over speculation that a border tax would be implemented. The retail industry imports most goods it sells in the US. J.C. Penney announced this week that it would close more than 100 stores, and rivals Kohl's and Macy's announced they would lease some of their retail space to other retailers in an effort to generate more revenue from real estate assets. Under the proposal, US export income would be tax free, which could benefit some energy companies, such as crude oil exporters.

Frexit fears rise on Le Pen's gains
While French presidential candidates François Fillon and Emmanuel Macron still hold commanding leads over Marine Le Pen in the upcoming elections, the right wing candidate has narrowed the gap, according to French polls released this week. Ms. Le Pen favors dropping out of the euro currency, and the markets aren't taking any chances. In reaction to the polls, the spread on French five-year government bonds rose to its highest level since the eurozone debt crisis. Trading volume for credit default swaps on French government debt also surged as spreads spiked. Credit default swaps are held by some investors for insurance against debt defaults. Rising CDS spread levels indicate that investors believe the chance of a default has increased.

Greece open to reforms
Greece agreed to legislate pension and other structural reforms this week, generating some optimism that negotiations on its bailout terms would resume after months of gridlock. Yields on Greek government debt fell to their lowest level in a month, although much work remains to be done.

THE WEEK AHEAD

  • US president Trump is scheduled to speak to Congress on Tuesday, 28 February
  • French GDP data are scheduled to be released on Tuesday, 28 February
  • Preliminary US fourth-quarter GDP data are scheduled to be released on Tuesday, 28 February
  • PMI Manufacturing Index data are released on Wednesday, 1 March
  • US initial jobless claims figures are released on Thursday, 2 March
  • US Federal Reserve chair Yellen is scheduled to speak on Friday, 3 March

 

Stay focused and diversified
In any market environment, we strongly believe that investors should stay diversified across a variety of asset classes. By working closely with your financial advisor, you can help ensure that your portfolio is properly diversified and that your financial plan supports your long-term goals, time horizon and tolerance for risk. Diversification does not guarantee a profit or protect against loss.

The information included above as well as individual companies and/or securities mentioned should not be construed as investment advice, a recommendation to buy or sell or an indication of trading intent on behalf of any MFS product.

Securities discussed may or may not be holdings in any of the MFS funds. For a complete list of holdings for any MFS portfolio, please see the most recent annual, semiannual or quarterly report. Full holdings are also available on the individual Fund Summary tab in the Products section of mfs.com.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Sources: MFS research; The Wall Street Journal; The Wall Street Journal Online; Bloomberg News; Financial Times; Forbes.com; CNNMoney.com; NBCNews.com.

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