- Some countries are expected to fully emerge from coronavirus lockdowns by mid-summer, while others that have not had a quick rollout of vaccination programs face the prospect of prolonged stay-at-home orders. The UK and the U.S. have been continuing the successful rollout of vaccines and saw the number of new daily cases fall dramatically. Meanwhile, European countries like France and Italy are seeing a new surge in cases, prompting tougher lockdown measures.
- The Chinese manufacturing and services sectors appear to be in great shape. A gauge of purchasing managers’ sentiment (PMI) in the manufacturing industry rose to 51.9 from 50.6 in March. A level below 50 indicates contraction. Meanwhile, non-manufacturing PMI advanced to 56.3 from 51.4 in the prior month.
- European inflation data disappointed investors. Europe’s consumer price index (CPI) for the month of March rose from 0.9% to 1.3%, below the 1.4% expected by analysts. Core CPI came in at just 0.9% compared with 1.1%. The low inflation levels give the European Central Bank leeway to continue with easy monetary policy.
- The OPEC+ oil group has decided to increase oil production in the next months, despite market expectations that the group will keep current supply cuts. The Saudi Arabia-led OPEC and Russia decided to increase production as countries like the U.S. and the UK are expected to exit lockdown measures, thus adding to demand.
- The U.S. manufacturing sector could not be in better shape. ISM’s manufacturing PMI reached 64.7 in March, a level not seen since 2004. The strong reading highlights that the U.S. economy is emerging strongly from the coronavirus pandemic.
- U.S. services PMI rose to a 16-year high of 63.7, as market participants are optimistic about the return to normal activity in the coming months after a long period of lockdowns.
- The U.S. economy added 916,000 jobs in March, the strongest jobs report since September, when the economy was still in recovery mode from the brutal loss of jobs in May. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, declined to 6% from around 6.2%. Average hourly earnings declined 0.1%, disappointing forecasters, who expected an increase of 0.1%.
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U.S. Broad Indices
- U.S. equities have rallied these past two weeks.
- Vanguard 500 Index Fund (VFIAX) recorded the strongest gains, up 2.40%.
- Meanwhile, Vanguard Small-Cap Index Fund (VSCIX) is the worst performer from the pack and the only decliner, down 0.10%.
- Fixed income assets were all up with one exception.
- After posting a loss two weeks ago, Vanguard Long-Term Investment-Grade Fund (VWESX) recovered strongly, with gains of 2.01% these past two weeks. This is by far the best performance from the pack.
- Vanguard Short-Term Treasury Fund (VFISX) is the worst performer from the bunch, with a loss of 0.19%.
- Sectors were all up these past two weeks, with one exception.
- Vanguard Information Technology Index Fund (VITAX) climbed more than 4%, representing the best performance.
- Meanwhile, Vanguard Health Care Fund (VGHCX) was the only loser from the pack, down 1.34%.
- Foreign equities were almost all down.
- Fidelity Latin America Fund (FLATX) fell 2.76%, largely erasing gains it posted in the prior two-week period.
- Vanguard European Stock Index Fund (VEUSX) advanced 1.56% for the week, which is the best performance by far.
- Alternative assets’ performance was mixed.
- PIMCO Emerging Markets Currency and Short-Term Investments Fund (PLMIX) lost 1.49% these past two weeks.
- Vanguard Real Estate Index Fund (VGSLX) has continued its strong performance streak, adding 3.37% over the past two weeks.
The Bottom Line
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Fund returns data are for the two-week period between March 19, 2021, to April 1, 2021.