Another week, another round of gains for the major averages. The S&P 500 climbed 1.5% to record its fourth consecutive weekly advance. The benchmark index has now posted gains in five of the first seven weeks of 2017, rising 5.0%.
The past week was highlighted by Fed Chair Janet Yellen's semiannual testimony to Congress, which took place on Tuesday and Wednesday. The market handled the testimony well even though Chair Yellen's comments showed the Fed may need to adjust its rate hike outlook as the year goes on. Specifically, Senator Pat Toomey asked Ms. Yellen why the Fed didn't really bump up its growth projections at all at the December meeting when many other bodies, like the IMF, have bumped up their 2017 growth prospects based on a belief that the implementation of fiscal stimulus in the U.S. will have a positive effect on growth.
Ms. Yellen said most of her colleagues refrained from doing so because they wanted greater clarity on the time, scope, and composition of any fiscal changes before making assumptions on the growth outlook. In sum, the comments showed that the Fed will be required to raise rates faster than it currently expects if fiscal measures end up boosting economic growth-a notion that has been bought fully by the stock market.
The market also saw continued support stemming from President Donald Trump's announcement that a "phenomenal" tax reform package was going to be announced in the next couple weeks.
The visions of tax reform and nothing but good things on the fiscal front kept a bid under the stock market, even though the latest round of inflation data showed hotter than expected PPI (+0.6%; Briefing.com consensus 0.3%) and CPI (+0.6%; Briefing.com consensus 0.3%) in January.
Last week's steady rise in the stock market took place even though rate hike expectations were pulled forward, briefly showing a 50.0%+ likelihood of a rate hike in May. By the end of the week, the implied likelihood of a May hike was down to 44.1% while the probability of a June hike ended the week at 69.9%, up slightly from last Friday's 68.3%.
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