Stocks posted solid gains for the week, on the heels of the largest weekly gain for the S&P 500 Index since 1974. While participation was led mostly by growth stocks early in the week, reports of a drug from Gilead Sciences that showed positive results in treating COVID-19 fueled broad-based gains on Friday. Ultimately, the S&P 500 gained modest ground for the week, while the Nasdaq outperformed as growth stocks bested value by the widest margin since April 2001.
Large caps led small caps, with the Russell 2000 Index declining slightly. Consumer discretionary was the top-performing sector as Amazon broke out to record highs, while financials lagged as earnings reports began to roll in. Equity investors were unfazed by economic data that continued to paint the picture of an economy firmly in the depths of a recession. More than 5 million new people filed for unemployment insurance for the third consecutive week, and retail sales for March showed an 8.7% month-over-month decline, more than double the previous record drop.
International markets were little changed for the week. Both the MSCI EAFE and MSCI Emerging Markets Index were slightly negative through Thursday’s close, though both European and Asian stocks rallied strongly on Friday following news of the potential effectiveness of Gilead’s antiviral drug.
Fixed income markets continued to flex their resiliency despite strong returns from equities. Investment-grade (IG) and high-yield (HY) corporate bonds led as credit spreads for both sectors contracted further, now down significantly from their March 23 highs. Treasuries also continued to rally with 2-year yields reaching new all-time lows, undeterred by increasing discussion of plans to reopen the US economy.
After a brief yet strong rally following a brutal first quarter, WTI crude oil briefly slumped below $18 per barrel to its lowest price since 2001 as concerns over falling demand have painted a bleak outlook for energy commodities, which remain oversupplied. The US dollar was firmer on the week although currency market headlines were dominated by volatility in the Australian dollar as it shrugged off disappointing first quarter growth in China.
The economic calendar is light early next week; however, Thursday will see the release of Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index data for April in addition to another initial jobless claims report. Friday’s reports include durable goods for March and the April edition of the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index.