The U.S. stock markets were negative for the quarter as investors began to focus on changes in monetary policy, higher inflation, rising interest rates, and slower earnings momentum. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24th triggered a significant economic shift that sent many commodity prices higher and put further strain on supply chains, but also saw growth stocks rebound slightly from their early quarter swoon.
In 2021, the S&P 500 Index returned +28.71% in another strong year for US equity markets. While the market did pullback coming into October and into December, these retreats were both brief and shallow. A Santa Claus rally then capped a +11.03% Q4 return for the S&P 500 Index.
U.S. equities continued their strong momentum into Q3, with the S&P 500 Index setting new record highs 15 times in the quarter’s first 32 trading days. On August 16, the S&P 500 closed more than double the March 23, 2020 close (2237.40), the fastest doubling of the index since WWII. On September 2, the S&P 500 Index closed at a new record high for the 54th time in 2021.
Beginning the quarter with strong momentum, the market set 8 new record highs for the S&P 500 Index in the first 11 trading days. Q1 earnings for the S&P 500 Index came in at the highest level ever, with the majority of companies reporting positive surprises on both EPS and revenue.
The S&P 500 Index began 2021 at a historical high. Stocks continued to move broadly higher in January, with the S&P 500 Index notching five record highs before a week of R&R (Reddit and Robinhood) at month end erased those gains and left the S&P 500 negative for the opening month of 2021.
Pressured by COVID-19 stress and pre-election uncertainty, U.S. equities retreated in the last three weeks of October. Following the election in early November, equities moved higher and were further bolstered by encouraging vaccine news from both Pfizer and Moderna. The market then broadened, and value indices outperformed growth indices for the first full quarter since 2018.