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29/03/24 Briefing

Stocks scored a powerful first-quarter rally, despite a brief pause in the advance earlier in the week.

The S&P 500 index SPX gained 10.2% in the first quarter, its best three months to start a year since 2019, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP gained 9.1% for the quarter, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA was 5.6% higher for the same stretch, according to FactSet.

All three major U.S. stock indexes reclaimed record territory in the first quarter, after hitting a rough patch two years ago as the Federal Reserve began jacking up rates to fight stubbornly high levels of inflation.

The economy has kept chugging along despite the Fed’s policy rate sitting at the highest levels in nearly a quarter-century and benchmark 10-year Treasury yields BX:TMUBMUSD10Y near 4.2%. However, after two straight quarters of gains, investors remain anxious for the Fed to pivot to rate cuts later this year, with all eyes on a potential June rate cut.

Economic data on Thursday pointed to consumers having a positive view of the economy, but also confidence that inflation will keep easing.

The major stock exchanges will be closed Friday, but there will be fresh data on the inflation front with the release of February’s PCE gauge, the Fed’s preferred inflation index. It is expected to climb on a monthly basis, but stay at a 2.8% yearly rate.

Investors on Friday also will hear from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, who is set to speak at 11:30 a.m. Eastern.

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