CNBC Daily Open: Markets looked past banking crisis to rally in March

by ZeuCer

This report is from today’s CNBC Daily Open, our new, international markets newsletter. CNBC Daily Open brings investors up to speed on everything they need to know, no matter where they are. Like what you see? You can subscribe here.

March markets saw past banking crisis.

What you need to know today
In the U.S., February’s personal consumption expenditure price index, excluding food and energy, rose 0.3% for the month. That’s lower than the 0.4% estimate and January’s 0.5% increase.

Overall price increases in the euro zone slowed as well. Headline inflation for March was 6.9%, compared with February’s 8.5%. But core inflation, which strips out energy, food, alcohol and tobacco prices, came in at 5.7% in March, higher than the 5.6% in February.
U.S. markets posted strong gains Friday on the back of lower-than-expected inflation readings for February. Europe’s Stoxx 600 index added 0.6%, but was down 1.36% for the month amid turmoil among banks.
OPEC+ announced Sunday a surprise oil production cut of around 1.16 million barrels per day, starting in May. Analysts said the lower output could increase oil prices by $10 per barrel; WTI Crude jumped 7.16% to $81.09 as of this newsletter’s publication time.
Tesla delivered 422,875 vehicles in the first quarter of the year, the company reported Sunday. That’s a 36% year-over-year increase and a 4% rise from last quarter’s deliveries. Separately, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is reportedly planning to visit China and meet Li Qiang, the country’s premier.
PRO April’s been the best month for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the second best for the S&P 500, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac. Analysts, however, think stocks have a chance of “retesting the October lows.”
The bottom line
Markets were defiant in March. Last month, they shrugged off crisis after crisis and posted impressive gains.

On Friday, the S&P rose 1.44%, the Dow increased 1.26% and the Nasdaq Composite jumped 1.74%. For March, the S&P was up 3.51%, the Dow 1.89% and the Nasdaq 6.69%. For the S&P and Nasdaq, the quarter was even better than that: The S&P rose 7.03%, and the Nasdaq leaped 16.77% — its best quarter since 2020.

I started off by saying markets were “defiant” — implying they were behaving contrary to how they should, given the economic reality — but I admit that’s a little unfair. Markets did have reasons to rally despite the headwinds in March.

February’s core PCE came in lower than markets had expected, a welcome relief after the month’s consumer price index, excluding food and energy prices, was higher than estimated.

That’s good news for those worried about inflation and higher inflation rates. For technology companies, that’s more than good news — it’s music to their ears. Tech stocks benefit the most from lower interest rates, because their valuation tends to depend on future earnings, which are worth less when interest rates are high.

The prospect of slower interest rate hikes, combined with investors’ perception of tech as a haven from the banking crisis, meant tech was a big winner in March. Nvidia has surged a staggering 87.4% this year — though Meta’s 72.7% pop and Tesla’s 58.8% jump aren’t too shabby either.

What’s more important, however, is a stock’s performance in the future. Investors are hoping April, historically a stellar month for markets, will be strong again this year. The March jobs report, coming out this Friday, will put that trend to the test. If the number of jobs added remains persistently high, it’ll be a battle of two stubborn markets — the labor market and the stock market — until one finally caves.

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