What a Week: Do-Si-Do
Like teenage girls fawning over Elvis, the stock market swooned over the Fed this week. But hopes the central bank will stop raising its fed funds rate next month quietly exited the building by Friday, leaving most market participants where they started the week -- anxious -- despite gains for major averages.
After starting the week concerned about inflation, stock investors latched onto dovish words from Fed speakers and the March FOMC meeting minutes Tuesday, inciting a rally that carried major averages to weekly gains despite mixed follow-through.
Record oil prices and U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman crashed the party when the price of crude topped $75 per barrel Friday and Bodman warned of possible gasoline supply problems. Maybe that qualifies as one of the "surprises" San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen was talking about Wednesday after commenting that rate hikes are over and inflation contained -- minus any data to suggest otherwise, of course.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average did rise modestly Friday to 11,347.45, another six-year high, but the S&P 500 dipped 0.01% to finish 1311.28 and the Nasdaq Composite fell 19.69 points, or 0.83%, to 2342.86 as Dell's (DELL) weakness offset Google's (GOOG) strength.For the week, the Dow gained 1.9%, while the S&P rose 1.7%, and the Nasdaq climbed 0.7%, lagging its blue-chip counterparts amid disappointment over results and/or guidance from big-caps such as Intel (INTC), eBay (EBAY) and Amgen (AMGN), as well as prior highfliers F5 Networks (FFIV) and PortalPlayer (PLAY). Meanwhile, the dollar sunk, commodities prices soared and the yield on the benchmark 10-year rose above 5%. "The reaction [to the Fed minutes] was very emotional, and it is still undecided whether 5% is the end," said Barry Hyman, equity market strategist at Ehrenkrantz King Nussbaum, adding that the new fear is that perhaps $70 per barrel is the bottom end of a new range. "We look at gold and commodities. These are inflation indicators."
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