May was a volatile month for Wall Street. Stocks began May where April ended, with losses. In fact, it wasn’t until the last week of May that stocks posted gains. Throughout the month, investors had to face the prospects of an economic slowdown impacted by accelerating inflation, rising interest rates, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and lukewarm corporate earnings reports. Despite suggestions from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell that the central bank is not likely to raise interest rates by 75 basis points, stubbornly high inflation has set the Fed on a path of quantitative tightening and interest-rate advances that presents a risk to economic growth.
Crude oil prices gradually rose throughout the month, only to surge on the last day of May after the European Union imposed an immediate ban on two-thirds of all Russian oil imports in a further response to its invasion of Ukraine. Crude oil prices advanced over 10.0% to nearly $115.00 per barrel. Gas prices also continued to increase in May, reaching record highs along the way. The national average retail price for regular gasoline was $4.59 per gallon on May 23, up from $4.12 on April 25 and $1.57 over a year ago. Analysts suggest that gas prices are likely to continue to increase with rising crude oil prices, the impact of the ongoing Russia/Ukraine war, and demand exceeding refinery output.
First-quarter gross domestic product contracted at an annualized rate of 1.5% (see below) after increasing nearly 7.0% to end 2021. Nevertheless, there were some positive signs in May. Consumer spending continued to increase and some high-end retail earnings reports gave investors a reason to believe the economy could weather the storm.
A late-month rally helped push some of the benchmark indexes higher to close May in the black. The Dow, the S&P 500, the Russell 2000, and the Global Dow each finished ahead of their respective April closing values. While tech shares rebounded somewhat at the end of the month, the Nasdaq still closed May in the red.
Ten-year Treasury yields ended the month about where they began. Gold prices decreased nearly 3.0% in May. The U.S. dollar road the ebbs and flows of the stock market and bond prices, ultimately ending the month lower than it started.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN JUNE
The Federal Open Market Committee meets in June and will almost certainly increase the federal funds target interest rate another 50 basis points, following a similar measure the last time the Committee met in May. Several economic indicators in April began to show that the economy may be slowing. The May data, available in June, will likely continue this trend.
Economic: Based on data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (unemployment, inflation); U.S. Department of Commerce (GDP, corporate profits, retail sales, housing); S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Index (home prices); Institute for Supply Management (manufacturing/services). Performance: Based on data reported in WSJ Market Data Center (indexes); U.S. Treasury (Treasury yields); U.S. Energy Information Administration/Bloomberg.com Market Data (oil spot price, WTI Cushing, OK); www.goldprice.org (spot gold/silver); Oanda/FX Street (currency exchange rates). News items are based on reports from multiple commonly available international news sources (i.e., wire services) and are independently verified when necessary with secondary sources such as government agencies, corporate press releases, or trade organizations. All information is based on sources deemed reliable, but no warranty or guarantee is made as to its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed herein constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any securities, and should not be relied on as financial advice. Forecasts are based on current conditions, subject to change, and may not come to pass. U.S. Treasury securities are guaranteed by the federal government as to the timely payment of principal and interest. The principal value of Treasury securities and other bonds fluctuates with market conditions. Bonds are subject to inflation, interest-rate, and credit risks. As interest rates rise, bond prices typically fall. A bond sold or redeemed prior to maturity may be subject to loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 largest, publicly traded companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a market-value weighted index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The Russell 2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2,000 U.S. small-cap common stocks. The Global Dow is an equally weighted index of 150 widely traded blue-chip common stocks worldwide. The U.S. Dollar Index is a geometrically weighted index of the value of the U.S. dollar relative to six foreign currencies. Market indexes listed are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment.