Investors await U.S.-China trade-deal signing, earnings season kickoff
The S&P 500 and Nasdaq clinched fresh closing records Monday, as investors awaited the planned signing of a “phase one” U.S.-China trade deal later in the week and prepared for fourth-quarter earnings season to move into full swing.
How did the major indexes end?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.29% rose 83.28 points, or 0.3%, to end at 28,907, its second-highest close on record, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
The S&P 500 SPX, +0.70% advanced 22.78 points, or 0.7%, to close at 3,288.13, while the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +1.04% gained 95.07 points, or 1%, to end at 9,273.93 — record finishes for both indexes.
Stocks on Friday gave back some ground, but saw weekly gains. The Dow on Friday briefly traded above the 29,000 milestone for the first time but ended the day down 133.13 points, or 0.5%, at 28,823.77. That left the blue-chip gauge with a weekly rise of 0.7%.
The S&P 500 fell 9.35 points, or 0.3%, on Friday to end at 3,265.35, trimming its weekly rise to 0.9%. The Nasdaq Composite lost 24.57 points, or 0.3%, to finish at 9,178.86, leaving it with a weekly advance of 1.8%.
What drove the market?
Stocks added to modest early gains after news reports indicated that the U.S. plans to withdraw its largely symbolic designation of China as a currency manipulator ahead of Wednesday’s planned signing of a partial trade pact that aims to ease the tariff battle between the world’s two-largest trading partners.
China’s chief trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, and a delegation are slated Wednesday to sign the so-called “phase one” trade deal in Washington. The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. and China are also set Wednesday to announce plans for semiannual talks aimed at pushing reforms in both nations and resolving disputes.
“It looks like there’s going to be some kind of ‘phase one’ deal,” Arun Bharath, chief investment strategist at Bel Air Investment Advisors, told MarketWatch. “It may not be a full resolution, but a step in the right direction.”
But Bharath also credited liquidity provided from global central banks as a catalyst propelling equities higher globally. “That’s a great environment for risk-on investments, which are primarily being driven by a surge of global liquidity driven by central banks.”
Potentially tempering expectations for further trade progress was an article overnight in the South China Morning Post, which cited “a social media account linked to the Chinese government” that posted a cautionary note Monday on the state of U.S.-China trade relations.
“We must bear in mind that the trade war is not over yet — the U.S. hasn’t revoked all its tariffs on China and China is still implementing its retaliatory measures,” according to Taoran Notes, a social media account affiliated with the official Chinese publication Economic Daily. “There are still many uncertainties down the road,” the post read.
Investors also are waiting for the world’s largest investment banks to kick off corporate earnings season starting Tuesday.
“Financials come first. They are the backbone of the economy,” said Diane Jaffee, senior portfolio manager at TCW, in an interview with MarketWatch.
“The murmurs in advance of earnings,” she said, are that banks’ fixed income, currency and commodity, or FICC, divisions will not be as much of a drag as in the past.
“That could set the tone, like it did last quarter,” she said.
Earnings season gets under with JPMorgan Chase & Co. JPM, +0.83% and Wells Fargo & Co. WFC, -0.74% set to release fourth-quarter results on Tuesday. For the entire S&P 500 financial sector, analysts surveyed by S&P Global Market Intelligence are looking for fourth-quarter earnings to rise 10.5% from a year earlier. That’s the second-largest growth among the 11 sectors. (Utilities are expected to see an 11.8% increase in EPS, with five sectors expected to suffer earnings declines.)
In economic news, Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren told a business group in Hartford, Connecticut, that the economic outlook for 2020 is good, as he expects strong labor markets and low inflation to persist. He warned that “central bankers do not have much historical experience” of an environment where the unemployment rate has been so low and inflation so muted, and that the Fed must therefore be vigilant toward the possibility of higher inflation and undue risk taking.
Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic said Monday he remained concerned that U.S. businesses might make further cuts if trade uncertainty persists, while speaking at a Rotary Club of Atlanta event. Neither Rosengren nor Bostic are voting members of the Fed’s rate-setting panel this year.
Which companies were in focus?
Shares of Lululemon Athletica Inc. LULU, +4.40% were in focus after the fitness apparel company said early Monday that it was lifting earnings and revenue guidance for the fourth quarter, citing momentum over the holiday period. Shares added 4.4%.
Aerospace suppliers Woodward Inc. WWD, +4.82% and Hexcel Corp. HXL, +9.57% on Sunday set plans for an all-stock merger that executives said was a response to rising climate-change pressures on the industry. Woodward shares rose 4.8% Monday, while Hexcel shares gained 9.6%.
Shares of Tesla Inc. TSLA, +9.77% rallied 9.8% Monday, after Oppenheimer analyst Colin Rusch boosted his stock-price target by nearly 60% to more than $600, arguing that the electric vehicle maker had reached “critical scale” that will enable it to produce sustainable, positive free cash flow.
Nvidia Corp. NVDA, +3.14% shares gained 3.1% Monday, after Needham analyst Ari Shusterman upgraded the semiconductor company’s stock following an encouraging meeting with company management.
Shares of International Business Machines Corp. IBM, -0.07% gave up less than 0.1% after Evercore ISI analyst Amit Daryanani downgraded the stock, citing macro headwinds and the company’s debt load.
Shares of discount retailer Five Below, Inc. FIVE, -11.36% tumbled 11.4% after the company reported worse-than-expected holiday sales and profit and sales warnings.
Beyond Meat Inc.’s BYND, +19.02% stock surged 19% amid industry forecasts that the alternative meat industry could grow to a $100 billion market by decade’s end. The stock has risen 51.2% year-to-date.
How did other markets trade?
In bond markets, the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, -0.09% gained 2.1 basis points to 1.85%.
Oil futures closed lower, with the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude for February delivery CLG20, +0.62% shedding 96 cents, or 1.6%, to settle at $58.08 a barrel. In precious metals, gold for February delivery GCG20, -0.44% settled at $1,550.60 per ounce, down 0.6%, or $9.50, its biggest single-day drop since the start of the year.
The U.S. dollar DXY, +0.10% was little changed versus a basket of its major trading partners.
In Asia overnight, stocks closed mostly higher, with the China CSI 300 000300, -0.34% up 1% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HSI, -0.24% advancing 0.9%.
In Europe, stocks ended slightly lower, with the Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP, +0.04% down 0.2%.