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Market Moves You Need to See
Kevin Matras   
Profit from the Pros
By Kevin Matras
Executive Vice President
Zacks Investment Research

Stocks End Mixed, Dow Ends Losing Streak, IMF Raises U.S. And Global Growth Forecast

Stocks closed mixed yesterday in a choppy back and forth session.

The Dow put an end to their 6-day losing streak with the help of better than expected earnings and positive price action from UnitedHealth. Johnson & Johnson also reported a positive EPS surprise, but missed on sales (even though sales were up 2.3% vs. this time last year). They were down on the day.

Positive earnings and sales surprises from Bank of America and Morgan Stanley yesterday morning, produced mixed results with MS up on the day while BAC was down.

In other news, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) raised their global growth forecast to 3.2%, up from January's forecast of 3.1%. The IMF gave the U.S. the biggest upside revision, going from 2.1% to 2.7%. The Eurozone, however, saw a slight downward revision, but is still expected to grow by 0.8% from the previously expected 0.9%. China is expected to grow by 4.6%, while India is expected to increase by 6.8%.

But the IMF singled out the U.S. as being a major driver of global growth this year. Unfortunately, they also urged caution regarding rate cuts, given our "overheated" economy.

Worldwide, they estimate inflation to average 5.9%. That's an improvement from last year's 6.8%. But the 5.9% is a slight uptick from their January estimate of 5.8%.

Yesterday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell concurred with the strong assessment for the U.S. economy, but also with the cautionary stance on inflation and interest rates by saying,"more recent data shows solid growth and continued strength in the labor market, but also a lack of further progress so far this year on returning to our 2% inflation goal."

He added that, "the recent data have clearly not given us greater confidence, and instead indicate that it's likely to take longer than expected to achieve that confidence." While he thinks "policy is well positioned to handle the risks," it suggests higher for longer might be a little longer still.

At the moment, Fed Funds traders give just a 4% chance of a rate cut on May 1; a 16.9% chance for the June meeting; a 44.4% chance at the July meeting; and a 68.8% chance at the September meeting.

While it's disappointing that rate cuts will likely be delayed for a few months more than expected, it has not proven to be detrimental to the aggregate economy or earnings. If the economy is strong enough to keep growing with 'max employment,' even with these higher rates, then that's fine. Inflation is more destructive than higher rates. Once inflation starts heading back down, that should give the green light for cuts to begin.

In the meantime, the U.S. economy has shown great resiliency. And we'll see that again as earnings season gets underway.

While earnings season has already unofficially begun, it's official start kicks off this afternoon when Alcoa reports after the close. All in all, we'll hear from 60 companies on deck to report today, including Abbott Labs, Prologis, and U.S. Bancorp before the open, and Crown Castle, Las Vegas Sands, and Discover Financial Services after the close.

On the economic report front today we'll get MBA Mortgage Applications, the Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations, and the Beige Book report.

And we'll see if the markets can find support.

Remember, stocks typically go up during earnings season. So there's a good probability that we could find support soon, and start heading back up.

See you tomorrow,

Kevin Matras

Executive Vice President, Zacks Investment Research


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