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Monday, March 4, 2024

Anticipation Builds on Wall Street for ‘Santa Rally’ as US Stocks Approach Record Levels

Wall Street As the year comes to a close, Wall Street is eagerly awaiting the traditional “Santa Claus Rally” to potentially push US stocks to new record highs.

December Surge and Near-Record Levels

December has seen a robust surge of over four percent in the S&P 500, contributing to a remarkable 24 percent increase for the entire year. The benchmark index is now within a mere 1 percent of reaching an all-time high, completing its eighth consecutive positive week on Friday.

Historical Momentum and “Santa Claus Rally”: Wall Street

Historical patterns suggest that this positive momentum is likely to continue, as the end of the year tends to be a strong period for stocks, known as the “Santa Claus Rally.” According to data from the Stock Trader’s Almanac, the S&P 500 has, on average, gained 1.3 percent in the last five days of December and the first two days of January.

Optimism Amidst Federal Reserve Signals: Wall Street 

This year’s optimism is fueled by the Federal Reserve’s surprising signals in December, indicating the likely conclusion of its historic monetary policy tightening and projecting rate cuts into 2024. The central bank’s stance comes amid signs of moderating inflation, with data from Friday further supporting this trend.

Investor Appetite and Retail Buying Trends

Recent trends showcase a strong appetite for stocks among investors. Bank of America clients witnessed the largest weekly net inflow since October 2022, with a net purchase of $6.4 billion in US equities in the latest week. Retail investors have also shown increased buying activity over the past four to six weeks, with a redirection towards riskier securities following the Federal Reserve’s policy shift.

Caution Amidst Thin Trading Volumes

While optimism prevails, caution remains, especially as trading volumes are expected to be thin for the rest of the year due to holiday breaks. Thin volumes can make stocks particularly sensitive to unexpected news or significant trades, as evidenced by an outsized move earlier in the week.

Potential Market Shifts and “FOMO” Trade: Wall Street 

Ned Davis Research recommends a further 5 percent shift from cash to equities, and caution is advised as investors may experience a “fear of missing out” (FOMO) on the equity rally, potentially driving markets slightly higher in the near term, according to Kevin Mahn, President and Chief Investment Officer at Hennion & Walsh Asset Management.

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