The Dow and S&P 500 were little changed on Tuesday morning, trading near record highs as Federal Reserve officials kick off their March meeting.
The Dow slipped 32 points, or 0.1%. The S&P 500 rose 0.1% and set an intraday record high. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite was the early outperformer, rising 0.6%.
Despite the recent records for major averages, there’s growing concern among investors that interest rates may continue to climb, snuffing out the comeback for equities. Traders will get more guidance from the Federal Reserve on rates and inflation on Wednesday. The central bank kicks off its two-day meeting on Tuesday, followed by a statement and briefing from Chairman Jerome Powell the following day.
“The markets are going to be tuned in to every word” of Powell’s press conference, said Rick Rieder, BlackRock’s CIO for global fixed income. “If he says nothing, it will move markets. If he says a lot it will move markets.”
The 10-year Treasury yield was hovering around 1.6% early Tuesday, about little changed. The rate hit its highest level in more than a year on Friday above 1.63%. The recent jump in bond yields has prompted a rotation out of growth stocks, as the companies’ future cash flows begin to look less attractive relative to other assets.
“The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is bringing us closer to a fully reopened economy and is likely the most important factor in assessing economic growth prospects for 2021,” noted strategists at LPL Financial. “We expect interest rates to fade as a threat to markets,” the firm added.
February retail sales fell by more than expected, down 3%, data released Tuesday showed, reflecting in part a month marked by severe weather across the United States. However, January’s retail sales figures was revised upward to a 7.6% jump from a 5.3% increase, so the markets largely ignored the number.
During regular trading hours Monday, the Dow jumped 174 points, notching its 21st record intraday high of the year, and 14th record closing high of 2021. It was also the 30-stock average’s seventh straight positive session — the longest daily winning streak since August.
The S&P 500, meanwhile, gained 0.64% for its fifth straight positive session. The benchmark index hit its 16th intraday high of the year, and 13th record closing high. The Nasdaq Composite was the relative outperformer on Monday, gaining 1.05% and clawing back some of its recent losses.
A mix of Big Tech companies and economic reopening plays like airlines led the major averages higher on Monday as the coronavirus vaccine rollout continues.
“After a roughly 14-year outperformance cycle, growth’s dominance relative to value peaked in the fall of 2020,” said Keith Lerner, chief market strategist at Truist. “We still see more upside in value relative to growth over the next 12 months given value’s dramatic longer-term underperformance as well as the U.S. economy being on the cusp of the best growth in more than 35 years.”