With the third month in the year more than halfway over, the stock market still hasn't quite found its footing. February's surprise selloff still weighed some on stocks this week, with gains relatively narrow.
Here are the top stories of the week from Monday, March 12, through Friday, March 16.
Markets Spend Week Mixed
On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.62%, the S&P 500 fell 0.13% and the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.36%. Tuesday, the Dow shed 0.68%, the S&P slipped 0.64% and the Nasdaq fell 1.02%.
By the closing bell Wednesday, the Dow handed back 1%, the S&P dipped 0.57% and the Nasdaq shed 0.19%. Thursday, the Dow rose 0.47%, the S&P shed 0.08% and the Nasdaq lost 0.2%. By the market close Thursday, the Dow had snapped a three-day decline, while the S&P snatched its longest losing streak since December.
On Friday the Dow finished higher by 0.23%, the S&P 500 rose 0.14% and the Nasdaq was unchanged.
What a week.
Trade War Threats Grow
Markets held steady Friday despite reports that President Trump is preparing to levy at least $30 billion annually in tariffs against China. The move reportedly comes as a penalty against China from the Trump administration for alleged intellectual property theft, according to a report citing anonymous White House insiders from the New York Times.
The notion of hefty tariffs against China spooked Corporate America late in the week. Fears were further stoked given the timing of the suspected China tariffs. President Trump last week imposed sweeping tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the U.S. that shook manufacturers to their core.
At the same time, one measure of political risk soared to its highest level since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Saxo Bank head of commodity strategy Ole Hansen tweeted the below graph of the Geopolitical Risk Index, a measure of geopolitical risk-related words in leading international news outlets. The previous high for the Geopolitical Risk Index was in August, when the threat of a nuclear showdown with North Korea appeared imminent.
The Geopolitical Risk Index (GPR) has reached its highest level since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The previous high was last August due to North Korean tensions. h/t @Dembik_Chris pic.twitter.com/NodfXb3YoY— Ole S Hansen (@Ole_S_Hansen) March 15, 2018
Turmoil continued in the White House this week as President Trump made significant changes to his cabinet lineup. On Tuesday, Trump announced on Twitter that he is replacing Rex Tillerson with Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. Tillerson, a one-time CEO of Exxon (XOM) , ascended to the position in Feb. 2017. Since then, he and the State Department he ran continually clashed with Trump on a host of issues, including the U.S. response to nuclear power shows from North Korea.
The White House was also subject to another staffing rumor this week: multiple outlets reported Trump is considering ousting national security adviser H.R. McMaster. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied there are going to be any changes at the National Security Council via Twitter on Thursday evening.
Just spoke to @POTUS and Gen. H.R. McMaster - contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the NSC.— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) March 16, 2018
Tech Stocks Show Strength
FANG stocks have been exploding lately, even as the stock market as a whole has struggled to recoup losses from earlier in the year. FANG, an acronym coined years ago by TheStreet's Jim Cramer, encompasses Facebook Inc. (FB) , Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) , Netflix Inc. (NFLX) and Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) .
While those stocks (many of which are held in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts Plus) have performed with impressive strength in recent history, tech sector gains aren't limited to just FANG. The New York Stock Exchange's FANG+ Index has climbed 23% so far this year, earning the group of stocks an annualized return of 67% since early last year. Valuations have also soared. The companies in the FANG+ Index trade at almost three times the average of the market at large on a valuation basis.
The iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF (SOXX) reached a new 52-week high early in the session Tuesday to trade hands for as much as $198.84 after the market open. That's the highest the ETF has gotten since March 2000 -- a full 18 years ago.
The impressive gains in the chip space appear to show that the sector has largely shaken off news that Action Alerts Plus holding Broadcom Ltd. (AVGO) will be blocked from taking over Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) . President Donald Trump late Monday halted the deal, citing national security concerns.
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