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Market’s Resilience Tested by Slow Growth

Stocks drifted lower for the third straight week, something that hasn’t happened since the start of the year. And although the loss during this streak is still quite modest, just 2.2 percent for the S&P 500, it does betray the sense of ennui that has overcome markets in the absence of conviction. Lackluster growth, falling earnings, experimental monetary policies, and political uncertainty have conspired to cast a pall over markets. The recovery rally from the February low has been driven by multiple expansions and seems to have run its course. In order for stocks to push higher, fundamentals need to improve, and on that score the evidence is mixed.

More Signs of a Low, Slow Growth Environment

U.S. equities slipped for the second straight week, as investors are once again questioning the pace of global economic activity. It was the first consecutive weekly loss for stocks since mid-February when the current rebound began. And the cumulative decline of 2.2 percent from the recent high on April 20 is quite modest. But recent economic data has been soft enough to raise questions about whether the rebound is fully justified. In the U.S., the latest example was the April jobs report. It was by no means a weak report, but it did fall short of expectations. The economy generated 160,000 new non-farm jobs instead of the 200,000 expected.

The Reaction to Central Bank Inaction

The influence of central banks continues to exert itself, even when they do nothing. Last week the Federal Reserve stood pat, leaving its options open regarding the pace and timing of future rate increases. And although its decision statement was dissected ad infinitum, the effect on markets was negligible.

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