- Stocks took a breather in March; the Dow Industrial Average and the S&P 500 closed the month almost flat with declines of .7% and .3%, respectively. The Nasdaq composite rose 1.5% and closed a hairsbreadth from its all-time high of 5,914 as investor interest turned to technology shares. For the first quarter, the 5.5% gain by the S&P 500 was its biggest quarterly gain since 2015 and sixth straight quarterly advance.
- Oil prices show no sign of rising anytime soon. Price has declined by 5% this year. According to a Reuters poll, analysts are unsure that OPEC’s supply cut will be enough to offset the increase in U.S. production and do not believe prices will reach $60 a barrel until early next year. U.S. shale production is expected to rise by 109,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 4.96 million bpd in April, its biggest monthly increase since October.
- Margin debt reached a record high in February, climbing to $528.2 billion, reflecting investor bullishness. The rise has been steady, and when measured against the rising value of the market, investors now are not setting records in borrowing against their accounts. Margin debt totaled 2.5% of market capitalization on the New York Stock Exchange in February, roughly level with where it was in 2013.
* This commentary reflects the opinions of Welch & Forbes based on information that we believe to be reliable. It is intended for informational purposes only, and not to suggest any specific performance or results, nor should it be considered investment, financial, tax or other professional advice. It is not an offer or solicitation.
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