This Weekly Financial Markets Update reviews the top market headlines: Federal Reserve Stands Firm, Leading Indicators Rise for the First Time in Two Years, February Home Sales Jump

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Top Three Market Headlines

Federal Reserve Stands Firm: At a meeting last week, the Federal Reserve’s policy-setting committee once again maintained the current target range for its benchmark interest rate, the federal funds rate, at 5.25% to 5.50%. The Fed has held the target at this level since July of last year. Policymakers also left unchanged their previous projection of cutting the policy rate by three-quarters of a percentage point during 2024, but also reiterated that they do not expect to initiate any such reductions until they have "gained greater confidence that inflation is moving sustainably toward 2%."

Leading Indicators Rise for the First Time in Two Years: The Conference Board reported last week that its Leading Economic Index (LEI), a composite of ten U.S. economic indicators intended to signal turning points in the economy, rose 0.1% in February from January. This was the first month-over-month increase in the index since February 2022. The rise was attributed to recent stock market gains, increased hours worked at U.S factories, and a pick-up in residential construction. Despite the improvement, The Conference Board still expects U.S. GDP growth to slow this summer as consumers face continued pressures from rising debt levels and elevated interest rates.

February Home Sales Jump: Sales of existing homes in the United States increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.38 million in February, up 9.5% from the prior month, according to the National Association of Realtors. This represented the largest monthly increase since February 2023 and marked only the second time in the last two years that sales rose for two consecutive months. Supporting the jump was an increase in the inventory of homes for sale, as total housing inventory at the end of February was 1.07 million units, up 10.3% from one year ago.

As of March 25, 2024 Week Quarter-To-Date Year-To-Date One-Year
MSCI All Country World 1.82% 7.81% 7.81% 27.60%
S&P 500 2.31% 10.12% 10.12% 35.06%
Russell 2000 1.61% 2.52% 2.52% 21.84%
MSCI EAFE 1.21% 5.64% 5.64% 18.61%
MSCI Emerging Markets 0.51% 1.90% 1.90% 11.01%
FTSE NAREIT Equity 0.03% -2.66% -2.66% 16.42%
Bloomberg Commodity -0.39% 1.30% 1.30% 1.51%
Barclays U.S. Aggregate 0.73% -1.00% -1.00% 1.33%