Stocks could build on gains in the week ahead as investors await Friday’s jobs report
The bounce that took the major averages to their first winning week following a steady string of losses could continue.
The big event for markets could be Friday’s employment report, which is expected to show solid job gains but a slowing from April’s strong growth.
“These kinds of weeks like this help build on themselves, so while it’s not a breakthrough week, it’s an important week,” said one strategist.
Stocks could carry the momentum of this latest rally into next week as investors look ahead to Friday’s jobs report.
All three major indices scored big gains in the past week, each rising higher than 6%. Both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite broke a seven-week losing streak, while it had been eight weeks of losses for the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
“I think this is the beginning of that long-awaited relief rally,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research.
In the four-day week ahead, there are just a handful of earnings, with reports from Salesforce.com, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and online pet retailer Chewy.
The May employment report Friday is the most important data on a calendar that also includes ISM manufacturing, job openings data, monthly vehicle sales and the Federal Reserve’s beige book, all on Wednesday.
“I think the 325,000 consensus [nonfarm payrolls] number, we could easily beat. But it’s just math,” said Alex Chaloff, co-head of investment strategies at Bernstein Private Wealth Management. He noted there could be positive revisions in prior month’s data, as there have been in recent reports.
Economists have expected the pace of job creation to slow from 428,000 jobs in April. “You can’t continue to grow at that type of pace, especially with Covid spiking. That’s a little bit of air cover for the 325,000 number,” said Chaloff.
A recovery after the Fed’s minutes
Stocks in the past week were choppy but moved sharply higher, especially after the Federal Reserve released minutes from its last meeting.
The S&P 500 gained 6.5% to 4,158, the best week since November, 2020. The Dow was up 6.2%, while the Nasdaq was the outperformer, up 6.8%.
“It was waiting for some sort of a catalyst, and I think it got it from the Fed. Not only was it not more hawkish, but it said it would look to expedite the rate tightening,” said Stovall.
“So I think a lot of investors thought they were frontloading the rate hiking cycle, implying they could end up pausing in the third quarter sometime,” he added. “I think that’s what was the rally trigger. The market just got oversold on a breadth and sentiment perspective and was ripe for some sort of good news and the Fed delivered.”
Chaloff said the market is expecting the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates by 50 basis points, or a half percentage point, at each of its next two meetings. That could mean choppy trading through that period, but he added the first time the Fed returns to a quarter-point pace of hiking, the market should rally hard.
“I think this is the early stage of a bounce but we have a Fed meeting in June. We have a Fed meeting in July,” he said. “It will have an impact on markets. It will have jitters when the Fed is acknowledging they have work to do. We’re not saying this is the floor... But it’s great to see markets reacting appropriately to solid macro data.”
For now though, stocks could head higher. “I would say it hasn’t been a really crazy volume week, so it’s nice, it’s fun, it’s great to go into the long weekend, starting the summer with some strength, but the breadth and depth hasn’t been there,” Chaloff said. “I want to say ‘Okay, everybody, we’re not dancing. We’re not there yet’ … We think we’re through the worst of it, but not all of it.”
Looking for catalysts
Chaloff said he will be watching to see if hedge funds, which had been unloading holdings, start to buy in the coming week, a possible positive catalyst for the market.
“These kinds of weeks like this help build on themselves, so while it’s not a breakthrough week, it’s an important week,” he said.
Any developments over the weekend could be important, but weekends are also a time when investors reflect. “If you have a really bad week, and people can’t touch their money for 48 or 72 hours, you really have a bad open to start the week,” Chaloff said.
Bond yields in the past week were lower and steadier. The 10-year yield was at about 2.74% Friday.
“I think it’s positive for stocks and obviously bonds,” Chaloff said. “After seven, eight weeks of outflows you’re starting to get inflows into fixed income instruments of all types, and that keeps yields constrained.”
That is also a positive for growth companies that were the hardest hit as interest rates rose.
Markets close out the month of May on Tuesday. As of Friday, the Dow and S&P 500 were both flattish for the month but negative for the Nasdaq.
Stovall said June is usually positive for the S&P 500. “June has typically few swoons. It’s sort of middling in terms of performance,” he said.