MarketsLast week, the Federal Reserve put itself on hold. The Federal Open Market Committee met on Wednesday, January 30, 2019, to discuss the state of the economy and determine policy. After the meeting, Fed Chair Jerome Powell offered a positive assessment of U.S. economic strength that was leavened with a few concerns.

“We continue to expect that the American economy will grow at a solid pace in 2019, although likely slower than the very strong pace of 2018…Despite this positive outlook…Growth has slowed in some major foreign economies, particularly China and Europe. There is elevated uncertainty around several unresolved government policy issues, including Brexit, ongoing trade negotiations, and the effects from the partial government shutdown in the United States…We are now facing a somewhat contradictory picture of generally strong U.S. macroeconomic performance, alongside growing evidence of cross-currents. At such times, common sense risk management suggests patiently awaiting greater clarity…”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500) welcomed the news and delivered its best January performance since 1987, reported Reuters.

Earnings may have helped. Through the end of last week, almost one-half of companies in the S&P 500 had shared fourth quarter 2018 earnings. FactSet reported the blended year-over-year earnings growth – which includes earnings for companies that have reported and earnings estimates for companies that have not yet reported – was 12.4 percent. That’s lower than the 20-plus percent growth companies have delivered since late 2017, and it’s the fifth straight quarter of double-digit earnings growth.

There was good news to close the week, too. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported far more jobs were created in January than analysts had anticipated, although unemployment ticked higher for the month because of the government shutdown, reported Bloomberg.

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* “And, U.S. Stock Markets Celebrated”

Sources:

https://www.federalreserve.gov/mediacenter/files/FOMCpresconf20190130.pdf?mod=article_inline

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-stocks-weekahead/fed-pause-validates-market-fears-about-u-s-growth-idUSKCN1PQ4MW

https://insight.factset.com/earnings-season-update-february-1-2019

https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-01/u-s-payrolls-rise-304-000-while-wage-gains-cool-amid-shutdown