From the desk of Willie Delwiche.
The rally in the stock market over the past year has been buoyed by many things and its shows. The year-over-year change in the S&P 500 reached its highest level ever this week as the index moved past the anniversary of its COVID lows. One of the sources of support in recent months has been economic data that have been consistently better than expected. Stocks have tended to do well when economic data surprises to the upside and they tend to struggle when the surprises have been to the downside. While the Economic Surprise Index is still positive, it has come under pressure in March. First, expectations for the recovery are being revised higher, but more immediately, there were a number of data misses in recent weeks. For example, housing market activity for February was weaker than expected (we touched on this in this week’s Perspectives piece). Economic optimism is generally welcome and tends to be self-fulfilling, but if expectations move too far ahead of reality, stocks can find themselves on a rocky path.