Select Page

U.S. Stocks Show Resilience Despite Inflation Concerns and Labor Market Strength, Fed Rate Cut Hopes Dampened

U.S. stocks experienced a relatively unchanged close on Thursday, influenced by news of higher-than-anticipated inflation and indications of a robust labor market, which tempered expectations of early interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve in the coming year. Despite a volatile session that initially saw equities opening higher and the benchmark S&P 500 briefly surpassing its January 2022 record closing high, gains were ultimately erased.

Following a strong end to 2023, stocks struggled to maintain upward momentum, with the S&P 500 showing a modest 0.21% gain for the year. This lack of momentum is attributed to mixed economic data and cautious comments from Federal Reserve officials, leading investors to revise their expectations regarding the timing and magnitude of potential rate cuts.

The U.S. Labor Department reported that consumer prices in December exceeded expectations, driven by increased costs for shelter and healthcare. In contrast, a separate report revealed a surprising decrease in new claims for unemployment benefits to 202,000.

Scott Ladner, Chief Investment Officer at Horizon Investments, commented on the inflationary pressures, noting that the spike was primarily attributed to shelter costs, which investors view as a transient issue.

Some Federal Reserve officials, including Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester and Richmond Fed President Tom Barkin, expressed reservations about the inflation data, emphasizing the need for more information before considering any decisions on rate cuts.

At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose marginally by 0.04% to 37,711.02, the S&P 500 lost 0.07% at 4,780.24, and the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.54% at 14,970.19. The decline in Treasury yields, coupled with a well-received auction of $21 billion in 30-year bonds, helped limit losses in the equity market.

Microsoft briefly surpassed Apple as the world’s most valuable company, with concerns over falling demand causing a nearly 4% drop in Apple’s shares since the beginning of the year. Microsoft’s shares rose 0.49%, while Apple experienced a 0.32% decline.

Most sectors in the S&P 500 showed declines, with only energy and technology in positive territory, rising 0.16% and 0.44%, respectively. Crypto stocks reversed early gains, with Coinbase, Bitfarms, and Riot Platforms experiencing notable declines following the approval of the first U.S.-listed exchange-traded funds (ETF) to track spot bitcoin.

Citigroup fell 1.77% after reporting about $3.8 billion in combined charges and reserves, impacting its fourth-quarter earnings, set to be reported on Friday. Other major banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, also recorded losses ahead of their upcoming earnings reports.

On the NYSE, declining issues outnumbered advancers with a ratio of 1.3-to-1, while on the Nasdaq, the ratio was 1.8-to-1. The S&P index marked 40 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 109 new highs and 138 new lows. The total volume on U.S. exchanges was 11.41 billion shares, slightly below the 12.27 billion average for the last 20 trading days.

U.S. Federal Government Records $129 Billion December Deficit, Marking a 52% Increase from the Previous Year

In a recent announcement, the U.S. Treasury Department revealed that the federal government posted a deficit of $129 billion in December, witnessing a substantial 52% rise compared to the same period a year ago. This surge is attributed to increased outlays and reduced receipts from the pandemic-influenced tax payments of December 2022. Outlays for December reached a record $559 billion, marking a 3% increase, driven in part by higher Social Security expenditures and interest on the public debt. Concurrently, receipts for the month declined by 6% to $429 billion.

For the first quarter of the 2024 fiscal year, which commenced on October 1, the federal deficit reached $510 billion, showing a 21% increase of $89 billion from the corresponding period in the previous year. A Treasury official noted that both year-to-date outlays and receipts set records, with outlays rising by 12% to $1.618 trillion and receipts increasing by 8% to $1.108 trillion.

In addition, public debt interest costs for December escalated to $119 billion, indicating an 11% increase of $12 billion from December 2022. This rise can be attributed to higher debt levels and an increased weighted average interest rate of 3.11%, surpassing the rate from a year earlier by three quarters of a point.

Birks Group Inc. (NYSE American: BGI) Reports Impressive 8.1% Surge in Holiday Net Sales

Canadian luxury jewelry retailer, Birks Group Inc., has announced a notable 8.1% increase in net sales for the eight-week holiday period concluding on December 30, 2023, compared to the corresponding period in the previous fiscal year. The company also disclosed a commendable 3% rise in comparable store sales during the same timeframe.

The significant sales growth is attributed to the robust performance of third-party branded watches and the success of recently renovated stores in Chinook and Laval. Furthermore, the expansion of e-commerce sales has contributed to the overall positive results. Birks Group emphasized that the increase in comparable store sales was driven by both branded watches and Birks Fine Jewellery.

Jean-Christophe Bédos, President and Chief Executive Officer of Birks Group, commended the sales teams for their exceptional results during the holiday season. He underscored the company’s commitment to customer service and its strategic focus on growth in the high-end luxury watch and jewelry market in Canada. Bédos expressed gratitude towards employees for their perseverance and dedication.

Birks Group utilizes comparable store sales as a key performance metric, encompassing e-commerce sales and factoring in stores open during the same period for both the current and prior year. The measurement excludes stores that have not been operational for the entirety of both periods or those that have been resized or relocated, depending on functional similarity.

The company, operating 21 stores under the Maison Birks brand across major Canadian metropolitan areas and additional locations under various luxury brands, also distributes its fine jewelry collections through select retailers in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Poland.

Venturing into the stock market on a Friday is like making a financial fashion statement – it’s bold, unpredictable, and might just be the unexpected twist your portfolio needs. Whether the market is wrapping up the week with a high-five or a facepalm, diving into the Friday fray is for the investors who like a little thrill and believe that even financial charts deserve a bit of end-of-week excitement. After all, who said making money can’t be a Friday night affair? Just remember, in the world of investments, Fridays are not just the end of the week; they’re the beginning of your financial adventure!