Markets Wrap

Rate Cut Hopes Push Stocks to New Peaks, AI on Trial

By Bill Bullington

3/8, 00:00 EST
S&P 500
iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF
iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond ETF
Broadcom Inc.
NVIDIA Corporation

Key Takeaway

  • Anticipation of rate cuts propels global stocks to record highs.
  • Treasury yields adjust as market anticipates monetary easing.
  • AI market frenzy faces a crucial test with Broadcom's earnings.

Rate Cut Expectations Fuel Market Rally

Global stock markets have soared to unprecedented levels, buoyed by the growing conviction among investors that major central banks, including the Federal Reserve, are poised to commence interest rate reductions as soon as June. This surge in market confidence has been instrumental in driving stock prices to new heights, with the anticipation of a more accommodative monetary policy fostering a wave of optimism across the financial landscape. Treasury yields have seen a notable easing, with the 10-year yield retreating to its 50-day moving average of 4.11%, reflecting market bets on approximately 0.9% worth of rate cuts for the year, slightly surpassing the Fed's projections. This shift towards a neutral market positioning since mid-February sets the stage for potential volatility in response to any unexpected developments in the forthcoming payrolls or wages data for February, underscoring the critical nature of upcoming economic indicators in guiding market sentiment.

Retail Junk Bonds Rally Loses Steam Amid Economic Slowdown

The rally in US junk retail bonds, which have outperformed the broader high yield bond market with a 3.15% increase this year, is showing signs of fatigue. This slowdown is attributed to diminishing consumer spending, resistance in bond prices, and a shift away from the post-Covid revenge spending that propelled retail junk bonds to a 20% return last year. As savings dwindle, borrowing costs escalate, and banks adopt a more cautious stance towards consumer loans, the outlook for retail bonds appears increasingly subdued. Despite ongoing retail sales providing some support to the sector, the fading momentum of post-pandemic consumption, coupled with a decelerating economy and rising borrowing expenses, suggests that retail bonds may face more modest gains moving forward.

AI Market Enthusiasm Faces Reality Check with Broadcom Earnings

The fervor surrounding the artificial intelligence (AI) market is set to encounter a significant test with the forthcoming earnings report from Broadcom. The semiconductor giant, whose stock has surged approximately 25% this year due to heightened demand for AI computing hardware, is under pressure to validate that the AI growth narrative can compensate for declines in computer and telephone sales. This scenario has raised concerns about a potential bubble in the market, especially after Nvidia's recent earnings bolstered optimism around AI, benefiting semiconductor stocks broadly. The options market hints at traders positioning for a catch-up, indicating that a disappointing performance from Broadcom could precipitate a tech sector sell-off, thereby challenging the prevailing enthusiasm around AI investments.