Market Recap - Fed Leans More Dovish, U.S. Treasury Yields Drop, Growth Concerns Grow

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The S&P 500 lost 0.8% this week in a tale of two trading narratives. The first narrative lifted the S&P 500 to a new 2019 high on the notion that low U.S. Treasury yields and a dovish Fed were a boon for risk assets.

However, the week's gains were wiped out on Friday amid renewed worries that the market continues to get ahead of itself in pricing in a better economic outlook than what economic data indicate.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1.3%, and the Nasdaq Composite lost 0.6%. The Russell 2000 underperformed with a steep loss of 3.1%

The S&P 500 financial sector (-4.9%) was the week's outright laggard, pressured by concerns that the compression in spreads will lead to weak net interest margins for lenders. Conversely, the consumer discretionary (+1.2%), real estate (+0.9%), and consumer staples (+0.7%) sectors outperformed.

On Wednesday, the Federal Open Market Committee left the target range for the fed funds rate unchanged at 2.25-2.50%; signaled that it does not expect any rate hikes now in 2019 versus two rate hikes expected at the time of the December 2018 meeting; and said it will begin tapering its balance sheet runoff in May with an end date of Sept. 30.

The Fed's pivot to an even more dovish mindset made it clear that the market doesn't have to fear the Fed like it did in the fourth quarter. At the same time, however, some viewed the pivot as a dim outlook for economic growth that won't translate well for earnings growth.

Nevertheless, the indication for no rate hikes in 2019 (and only one in 2020) sent U.S. Treasury yields noticeably lower across the curve, which was further accentuated by growth concerns.

The 2-yr yield dropped 12 basis points to 2.32%, and the 10-yr yield dropped 13 basis points to 2.46%. The U.S. Dollar Index increased 0.1% to 96.65. WTI crude increased 0.8% to $59.01/bbl.

Growth concerns were reinforced by an earnings warning from FedEx (FDX), disappointing manufacturing data out of Europe, and declining exports out of Japan and South Korea. FedEx called attention to slowing international macroeconomic conditions and weaker global trade growth trends. Nike (NKE) didn't help ease concerns after reporting underwhelming growth in North American sales.

In other macro developments, China confirmed trade negotiations with the U.S. will continue in Beijing next week and in Washington in early April. EU leaders offered to delay the Brexit date until May 22 if British lawmakers approve Prime Minister Theresa May's deal next week.

Market Recap - Risk Assets in Favor as Fed Remains Sidelined

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The S&P 500 gained 2.9% this week in a buy-the-dip trade that was supported by a sidelined Federal Reserve, persistently low U.S. Treasury yields, and a weakening dollar. In addition, key leadership from Apple (AAPL) and semiconductor stocks helped the S&P 500 set a new high for 2019 and close at its highest level since Oct. 10.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.6%, Nasdaq Composite gained 3.8%, and the Russell 2000 gained 2.1%.

10 of the 11 S&P 500 sectors finished notably higher with gains ranging from 1.7% (materials) to 4.9% (information technology). The industrials sector underperformed with a gain 0.3%.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell set the tone for the week after he reiterated the Fed's patient stance in an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday. Although not "new" news for the market, reassurance from the Fed, along with talk of policy support in China and actual policy support in Japan later in the week, helped soothe fears about slowing growth.

Soft economic data throughout the week contributed to the belief the Fed will stay put, which helped keep U.S. Treasury yields at persistently low levels.

The 2-yr yield remained unchanged at 2.44%, and the 10-yr yield declined four basis points to 2.59% -- both near their lows for the year. The lower rates, along with a patient Fed, remained a supportive consideration for risk assets.

Similarly, investors seemed to like the idea that a weakening dollar, should it persist, could provide some earnings-based relief for multinational companies. The U.S. Dollar Index lost 0.8% to 96.56.

Positive analyst coverage on Apple contributed to the stock's 7.6% gain this week. Separately, the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index, which was aided by Broadcom's (AVGO) call that the industry will hit bottom in the second quarter, jumped 5.6%. Many of its components also helped contribute to the outperformance of the tech sector and the Nasdaq.

In key corporate news, Boeing (BA) and Facebook (FB) were under pressure amid some company-specific issues.

Boeing was under public scrutiny following the fatal crash involving its 737 MAX-8 in Ethiopia. Concerns about the safety of the aircraft prompted the forced grounding of its 737 MAX fleet; Boeing announced it will roll out a software upgrade for the plane in the coming weeks. Shares of Boeing fell 10.3% this week, weighing heavily on the Dow and S&P 500 industrials sector.

In Facebook's case, The New York Times reported the company is under criminal investigation for some of its data deals that it arranged with tech companies. In addition, Facebook announced the departure of its chief product officer.

Elsewhere, UK Prime Minster May's plan for Brexit did not win approval in the British Parliament, yet Parliament did vote in favor of extending the Brexit deadline until June 30 at the latest. Lawmakers still need to agree on an alternate deal, and the delay still needs to be approved by all 27 member states of the European Union.

Market Recap - Growth Concerns and Profit Taking

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The S&P 500 lost 2.2% this week, as concerns about global growth underpinned a risk-off mindset. With few catalysts to justify further gains, and a confluence of discouraging data, news, and technical drivers, the market succumbed to profit-taking interest after its strong start to the year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 2.2%, the Nasdaq Composite lost 2.5%, and the Russell 2000 lost 4.3%. 

Nine of the 11 S&P 500 sectors finished lower, led by the energy (-3.9%), health care (-3.9%), and industrial (-2.9%) sectors. Conversely, the real estate (+0.5%) and utilities (+0.7%) sectors were the lone groups to finish higher.

The leading narrative for the market this week was that global growth is slowing and that the market got ahead of itself pricing in economic prospects.

Major developments reinforcing this belief included (1) a surprisingly weak U.S. nonfarm payroll figure, which grew by just 20,000 ( consensus 173,000); (2) the European Central Bank (ECB) issuing a dovish-minded policy stance; (3) 2019 GDP growth forecast cuts from the OECD, ECB, and China; and (4) slight-to-moderate growth for 10 of the 12 Fed districts, indicated in the Fed's Beige Book for March.

Likewise, there were growing concerns about the prospects for a U.S.-China trade deal.

U.S. Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad told The Wall Street Journal that a date has not yet been set for a summit because neither side feels an agreement is imminent. Separately, President Trump said if a China trade deal is "not a great deal," he will not make one, and that the U.S. will do well with or without a China trade deal.

There were some technical drivers in play, too. The S&P 500's inability to sustain a retest of its November high and stay above the 2800 level exacerbated selling efforts that sent the benchmark index below its 200-day moving average. The Nasdaq Composite, Russell 2000, and Dow Jones Transportation Average also fell below their 200-day moving averages. 

The U.S. Treasury market exhibited a flight-to-safety trade, which drove yields notably lower after making notable moves higher in the prior week. The 2-yr yield dropped 11 basis points to 2.44%, and the 10-yr yield dropped 13 basis points to 2.63%. The U.S. Dollar Index Index rose 0.9% to 97.36. WTI crude lost 0.6% to $56.14/bbl.

Market Recap - Financials, Information Technology Lead Broader Market Higher

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The S&P 500 increased 0.4% this week, extending its yearly gain to 11.8%, as shares of financial and technology companies outperformed. There was a lot of news for the market to digest, which included economic data, U.S-China trade updates, and geopolitics.

The Nasdaq Composite rose 0.9%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Russell 2000, meanwhile, finished flat.

The S&P 500 financials (+0.8%), information technology (+1.0%), and energy (+1.1%) sectors outperformed the broader market. Conversely, the materials (-1.6%), real estate (-1.2%), and consumer staples (-0.4%) sectors underperformed.

Several key economic indicators helped tame buying interest this week, though.

December housing starts increased at the slowest pace (1.078 million) since September 2016; the advance estimate of Q4 GDP increased 2.6% ( consensus 2.3%) but was still below the growth registered in the second and third quarters; and the ISM Manufacturing Index for February decreased to 54.2 ( consensus 56.0) from January's reading of 56.6.

The positive news for investors, though, is that consumer confidence increased in February; moreover, the softer data could reinforce the Fed's "patient" stance on monetary policy.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell upheld that view in his semi-annual Congressional testimony on the economy this week. He also acknowledged the Fed is close to agreeing on a plan to end the balance sheet runoff.

In U.S-China trade news, President Trump officially delayed the March 1 deadline, as was anticipated, due to reported progress being made. Bloomberg reported Friday that the U.S. and China are in the process of preparing a document that lays out the provisions of a trade deal that could be signed perhaps as early as mid-March.

There were also some geopolitical developments that garnered some attention. President Trump abruptly ended a two-day summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, unable to reach an agreement on the denuclearization effort. Separately, Pakistan shot down two Indian fighter jets over their contested border but returned a captured Indian pilot in goodwill.

In earnings news, retailers had a pretty good showing. Macy's (M), AutoZone (AZO), Lowe's (LOW), TJX (TJX), Best Buy (BBY), Gap (GPS), and Foot Locker (FL) all climbed on better-than-expected results. Home Depot (HD), too, had a solid fourth quarter but issued downside earnings guidance. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) increased 2.3% this week.

U.S. Treasuries declined noticeably this week, sending yields higher across the curve. The 2-yr yield increased seven basis points to 2.55%, and the 10-yr yield increased 10 basis points to 2.76%. The U.S. Dollar Index lost 0.1% 96.46. WTI crude lost 2.5% to $55.81/bbl.

Market Recap - U.S. - China Trade Talks, Federal Reserve Keep Investors at Ease

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The S&P 500 increased 0.6% this holiday‐shortened trading week. This week featured the seventh round of U.S.‐China trade talks and some reassurance from the Federal Reserve. The benchmark index increased its rally from the December 24 low to 18.8%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.6%, the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.7%, and the Russell 2000 gained 1.3%.

The S&P 500 utilities (+2.4%), materials (+2.3%), and information technology (+1.4%) sectors outperformed the broader market. Conversely, the energy (‐0.5%), and consumer staples (‐0.3%) sectors were the lone groups that finished with losses this week.

Investors received several updates from U.S‐China trade talks in Washington: (1) The two sides made an agreement on currency, but no specifics were provided; (2) China reportedly committed to purchase $1.2 trillion in U.S. goods, but the two sides reportedly remained far apart on forced technology transfers; and (3) President Trump said he will work out the final points on trade with China's President Xi most likely in March.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released its minutes from the January meeting on Wednesday, which came in mostly in‐line with expectations.

The main takeaway from the FOMC Minutes was that the Fed is going to be patient in raising rates and is likely to stop reducing the assets on its balance sheet later this year. The surprise ‐ or maybe the important revelation ‐ for the market to consider was the implication that the Fed could turn away from a "patient" mindset with raising interest rates if market uncertainty abates.

With the Fed maintaining its market‐friendly position and U.S.‐China trade talks seemingly progressing, or not getting worse, investors continued to not be too bothered by disappointing economic data.

Strong earnings results from Wal‐Mart (WMT) also helped temper concerns about a slowdown in consumer spending that were fueled by the lousy Retail Sales report for December in prior week.

Kraft Heinz (KHC) and CVS Health (CVS), however, provided investors with disappointing results and their stocks sank as a result.

U.S. Treasuries increased this week in a curve‐steepening trade. The 2‐yr yield decreased four basis points to 2.48%, and the 10‐yr yield decreased one basis point to 2.66%. The U.S. Dollar Index declined 0.4% to 96.55. WTI crude rose 3.0% to $57.25/bbl.

Market Recap - U.S. - China Trade Talks Advance While Government Avoids Another Shutdown

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The S&P 500 gained 2.5% this week, as the market was enthused by progressing U.S‐China trade talks, Congress averting another government shutdown, and the Federal Reserve maintaining its dovish‐minded stance.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 3.1%, the Nasdaq Composite gained 2.4%%, and the Russell 2000 gained 4.2%.

10 of the 11 S&P 500 sectors finished higher this week with energy (+4.8%), industrials (+3.5%), and materials (+3.4%) leading the advance. Conversely, the utilities sector (‐0.3%) was the lone group to finish with a loss this week.

The U.S. and China concluded a week‐long round of trade negotiations this week, although structural issues ‐‐ forced technology transfers, enforcement oversight, and China subsidizing domestic industries ‐‐ were unresolved. Mid‐level talks will continue next week in Washington while President Trump considers a possible 60‐day extension to the March 1 deadline.

Also, on Capitol Hill, President Trump signed a bipartisan funding resolution to avoid another government shutdown, although the $1.375 billion allotted for border security fell short of the $5.7 billion that was requested. As a result, President Trump declared a national emergency, setting up a likely legal battle, in order to secure funding from other departments to build a border wall.

The Fed, meanwhile, continued to assure investors that they need not fear tighter monetary policy at this juncture. Fed Governor Brainard (FOMC voter) said she thinks the balance sheet normalization effort should come to an end later this year.

These developments served to increase investor confidence in the face of slumping retail sales data and downside corporate guidance. Strikingly, the week's gains lifted the S&P 500 above its 200‐day moving average, which traders consider an important technical level, for the first time since December 4.

Retail sales for December declined 1.2% ( consensus +0.2%) ‐‐ the market's biggest monthly decline in nearly 10 years. There was a belief, however, that the December retail sales numbers were aberrant and would give way to better retail sales data for January.

Separately, Coca‐Cola (KO), PepsiCo (PEP), NVIDIA (NVDA), Applied Materials (AMAT), Activision Blizzard (ATVI), and Mattel (MAT) were some of the companies this week that issued downside guidance. Cisco Systems (CSCO), however, provided investors with positive results.

U.S. Treasuries retreated this week, driving yields higher in a curve‐flattening trade. The 2‐yr yield increased eight basis points to 2.52%, and the 10‐yr yield increased four basis points to 2.67%. The U.S. Dollar Index gained 0.3% to 96.90. WTI crude rose 5.4% to $55.56/bbl.

Market Recap - Wall Street Ekes out Gains Despite Profit - Taking Efforts

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The S&P 500 gained 0.1% this week despite recurring concerns about a slowdown in global growth and a U.S. China trade deal leading to some profit‐taking action.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.2%, the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.5%, and the Russell 2000 gained 0.5%.

The utilities (+2.0%), information technology (+1.8%), industrials (+1.5%), and real estate (+1.4%) sectors were this week's leaders. Conversely, the S&P 500 energy (‐3.3%), materials (‐1.6%), and financial (‐1.5%) sectors were this week's laggards.

The stock market kicked off the week right where it left off: with gains. Shares of mega‐cap stocks helped prop the S&P 500 back to its 200‐day moving average ahead of President Trump's State of the Union Address on Tuesday.

From a trader's perspective, the 200‐day moving average was an important technical level to keep an eye on. For some, it seemed like a reasonable, and convenient, stopping point for the market to reassess its fundamental issues.

President Trump's speech didn't move the market, but the fundamental issues of a slowdown in global growth and a U.S.‐China trade deal did cause some broad‐based profit taking. Though these concerns were nothing new, they did provide an excuse for investors to de‐risk from a market that perhaps overextended its rally from the December low. The S&P 500 finished the week below its 200‐day moving average.

Some disappointing updates from Europe that stirred growth concerns included (1) the Bank of England leaving its key rate unchanged at 0.75% and lowering its 2019 GDP growth outlook to 1.2% from 1.7%, (2) the EU Commission cutting its 2019 euro area GDP growth forecast to 1.3% from 1.9%, and (3) Germany reporting a 0.4% month‐over‐month decline in industrial production and a 1.6% month‐over‐month decline in factory orders in December.

As for trade news, expectations for a trade deal before the March 1 deadline were lowered. NEC Director Larry Kudlow stated there remained a sizable distance to go with trade talks. In addition, President Trump confirmed that it is unlikely he will meet with China's President Xi before the trade deadline. Reports, however, indicated that the White House could extend the deadline if necessary.

Earnings reports this week were mixed and replete with disappointing guidance. Alphabet (GOOG) and Walt Disney (DIS) headlined the week's reports but both exceeded expectations.

Separately, there were some notable M&A news this week. BB&T (BBT) and SunTrust Banks (STI) announced an all‐stock merger of equals valued at approximately $66 billion, which would make it the sixth largest U.S. retail bank if approved. Ultimate Software (ULTI) received a cash buyout offer led by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman for $11 billion, or $331.50/share.

U.S. Treasuries saw some continued buying interest this week, pushing yields lower across the curve. The 2‐yr yield decreased four basis points to 2.46%, and the 10‐yr yield decreased six basis points to 2.63%. The U.S. Dollar Index increased 1.1% to 96.63 while WTI crude lost 4.5% to $52.76/bbl.

Market Recap - Stock Market Finds a Friend in the Fed

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The S&P 500 overcame a slow start to the week to finish higher by 1.6% with earnings coming in better than feared and a dovish-minded Federal Reserve easing the market. In the process, the benchmark index also notched its best January since 1987.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.3%, the Nasdaq Composite gained 1.4%, and the Russell 2000 gained 1.3%.  The S&P 500 energy (+3.2%), real estate (+2.9%), consumer staples (+2.9%), and industrial (+2.6%) sectors led this week’s advance. On the other hand, the consumer discretionary (-0.1%),  financials (+0.1%), and materials (+0.8%) sectors underperformed.  What proved to be a rallying cry for the market this week was the Fed. In particular, the idea  that the Fed has pivoted from being a foe to a friend with its monetary policy outlook sparked broad-based buying interest and allowed the S&P 500 to break above its 2700 level for the first time since Dec. 7.

Specifically, the Federal Open Market Committee and Fed Chair Powell on Wednesday indicated the Fed is content with being patient with its policy approach and is open to curtailing its balance sheet normalization effort if necessary.  Also, the FOMC voted unanimously to keep the fed funds target rate range unchanged at 2.25% to 2.50%, as expected.  This week also saw the U.S. and China resuming trade talks in Washington and a host of earnings reports that were generally mixed but were not as bad as anticipated.  Regarding earnings, Dow components Apple (AAPL), Boeing (BA), 3M (MMM), Pfizer (PFE), Exxon Mobil (XOM), Chevron (CVX), and Merck (MRK) pleased investors with their results. On the other hand, Caterpillar (CAT), Microsoft (MSFT), Visa (V), DowDuPont (DWDP), McDonald’s (MCD), and Verizon (VZ) underwhelmed.  In addition, widely-held shares of Facebook (FB) and General Electric (GE) surged following their reports, while Amazon (AMZN) fell on disappointing guidance.

U.S. Treasuries saw increased buying interest following Wednesday’s FOMC decision and Fed Chair Powell’s press conference. Treasuries pulled back on Friday, though, after a stronger-than-expected Employment Situation Report for January, which showed that nonfarm payrolls increased by 304,000 ( consensus 160,000).  The 2-yr yield finished the week down 11 basis points to 2.50%, and the 10-yr yield fell nine basis points to 2.69%. The U.S. Dollar Index fell 0.2% to 95.66. WTI crude rose 3.0% to $55.28/bbl.

Market Recap - Market Takes a Breather

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The S&P 500 took a breather this holiday‐shortened trading week, losing 0.2%, amid pestering concerns over global growth prospects. Despite the week's minor setback, the benchmark index is still up 6.3% this month and 13.3% from its Dec. 24 low.

It was a mixed week with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.1%), the Nasdaq Composite (+0.1%), and the Russell 2000 (unch) also closing near their unchanged marks. The respective indices are up 6.0%, 8.0%, and 10.0% this month.

The S&P 500 sectors also finished mixed this week. The energy (‐1.5%), consumer staples (‐1.4%), and health care (‐1.3%) sectors underperformed, while the information technology (+1.0%) and real estate (+1.5%) sectors outperformed.

Contributing to lingering growth concerns were discouraging foreign data/outlooks; uncertainty surrounding a U.S‐China trade deal; and a tense government shutdown, which came to a head on Friday with news that there was an agreement on a continuing resolution to fund the government through Feb. 15.

While there was some selling interest during the week, the S&P 500's 50‐day moving average proved to be an important level of technical support. Whenever the S&P 500 fell below its 50‐day moving average, a wave of buyers would lift the index right back up, preventing selling from getting too out of hand.

Also, investors had some reason to remain assured with a round of better‐than‐feared corporate results.

Upbeat earnings reports and/or guidance from chip stocks helped lift the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index (+4.3%) this week, which featured one of its best sessions in nearly 10 years. Intel (INTC), however, was a trading exception as investors responded negatively to its disappointing first quarter revenue and EPS guidance. Intel's issues, though, had little effect on the semiconductor industry, reflecting a belief that they are more company‐specific than anything else.

Airlines, too, pleased investors with their earnings results, namely American Airlines (AAL), Southwest (LUV), and JetBlue (JBLU).

Dow components IBM (IBM), Procter & Gamble (PG), United Technologies (UTX) also provided strong reports and saw their stock prices respond accordingly. Conversely, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Travelers (TRV) underwhelmed.

Separately, a Wall Street Journal report on Friday indicated that the Fed may be getting close to the end of its balance sheet normalization effort. The report provided some comfort for the market, which rode the belief that the Fed's de facto tightening, by way of balance sheet normalization, could soon be over.

U.S. Treasuries finished slightly higher, pushing yields lower. The 2‐yr yield decreased one basis point to 2.60%, and the 10‐yr yield decreased three basis points to 2.75%. The U.S. Dollar Index fell 0.6% to 95.75. WTI crude lost 0.3% to $53.62/bbl.

Market Recap - Stock Market Rally Continues on Bank Strength, Trade Optimism

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The S&P 500 gained 2.9% this week, rising on the back of a strong financial sector (+6.1%) and growing optimism surrounding U.S.-China trade talks. The benchmark index has now posted its fourth straight weekly gain and is now up 6.5% in January.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (+3.0%), the Nasdaq Composite (+2.7%), and the Russell 2000 (+2.4%) also had solid performances, increasing their monthly gains to 5.9%, 7.9%, and 9.9%, respectively.

10 of the 11 S&P 500 sectors finished the week higher with the heavily-weighted financial sector rallying on bank earnings. Conversely, the utilities sector (-0.2%) was the only group to finish in the red this week amid an increase in Treasury yields.

The banks kicked off the earnings season for the fourth quarter reporting period with a mixed slate of results. Strikingly, the financial space seemed undeterred by reports that missed expectations while a handful of positive results proved to be a rallying cry for the sector.

For instance, the overwhelmingly positive response to upbeat reports from Goldman Sachs (GS) and Bank of America (BAC) was a telling sign of how negative sentiment surrounding the stocks -- and sector -- had gotten last month. The sector has now climbed 16.5% from its Dec. 24 low.

The strength from the financials had the S&P 500 butting up against its 50-day moving average for the first time since early December.

Then, positive-sounding trade reports from The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg boosted an already-improved investor sentiment and helped the benchmark index end the week above its 50-day moving average.

The Wall Street Journal indicated that Treasury Secretary Mnuchin proposed to lift tariffs on some, or all, Chinese imports during negotiations. Meanwhile, Bloomberg's report indicated that China made an offer during trade negotiations earlier this month to boost the amount of U.S. imports, resulting in balanced trade with the U.S. by 2024.

Though the Journal's report was refuted, market participants were encouraged by the tenor of the headlines, which fed hope that both sides are intent on avoiding a worst-case trade scenario that would be detrimental to both economies.

In other earnings news, Citigroup (C), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC), Morgan Stanley (MS), Delta Air Lines (DAL), and Netflix (NFLX) disappointed investors with fourth quarter results and/or lower guidance. Conversely, UnitedHealth (UNH), American Express (AXP), and United Continental (UAL) provided better-than-expected results.

U.S. Treasuries sold-off amid the extended gains in the stock market, driving yields higher. The 2-yr yield rose 14 basis points to 2.61%, and the 10-yr yield rose 12 basis points to 2.78%. The U.S. Dollar Index gained 0.7% to 96.37, and WTI crude rose 4.4% to $53.84/bbl.

Regarding the Brexit uncertainty, the British Parliament voted against PM Theresa May's Brexit deal this week, and Ms. May survived a subsequent no-confidence vote. Both outcomes were expected and produced little impact on U.S. markets.