Stock bulls have put together a nice run with big tech leading the way. Keep in mind, this is not only the end of the month but also the end of the quarter so there could certainly be some window-dressing as funds look to add more winners and cut the losers form their books.

The Nasdaq is up over +20% for the quarter, while the S&P 500 is up just over +6%. The regional banking crisis seems to be contained, at least for now, investors are again mostly focused on the Federal Reserve's next policy moves.

Those of course are heavily dependent on where inflation is sitting and the strength of the job market. One of the Fed's favorite inflation gauges, the PCE Prices Index, is due out today with most economists expecting a moderate slowdown in the annual headline rate to +5.1% from +5.4% the previous month.

That is a look back to February, however, and investors are really more interested in March data that will start arriving next week. The highlights will be ISM Manufacturing and Services Sector Indexes on Monday and Wednesday, respectively, and the all-important March Employment Report on Friday. Those three reports will reveal the most up-to-date inflation and employment trends as well as provide some deeper insights into overall economic activity.

Based on weekly jobless claims, it doesn't appear that the tight labor market has softened much - if any - in the past month despite numerous layoff headlines. This could be because laid off workers haven't yet needed to file for benefits but economists believe it's because most are finding new jobs pretty readily. The February jobs report showed a gain of +311,000 jobs, around +100,000 more than Wall Street was expecting. Unemployment did tick up slightly to 3.6% from 3.4% previously but that is still historically low. Monthly wages are the metric the Fed is most tuned into and that did slow last month but the year-over-year gauge is still up +4.6%.

Reducing wage growth is a major goal of the central bank as it is considered a key factor behind ballooning consumer prices and inflation staying hot. Notably, inflation continues to outstrip wage growth, meaning the raises that employees have gained are being eaten up by higher expenses. Several labor groups around the country are actually pushing for even higher minimum wages of +$20 per hour or more.

Other data next week includes IHS Markit Manufacturing PMI and Construction Spending on Monday; Factory Orders and the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) on Tuesday; ADP's Employment Change and IHS Markit Services PMI on Wednesday; and Consumer Credit on Friday.

On the earnings front, Conagra reports on Wednesday; and Constellation Brands and Levi Strauss report on Thursday.

Interesting Banking Thoughts: The 25 biggest U.S. banks gained $120 billion in deposits in the days after SVB collapsed, according to Federal Reserve data. All the U.S. banks below that level lost $108 billion over the same period. It was the largest weekly decline in smaller banks’ deposits in dollar terms on record. Meanwhile, more than $220 billion has flowed into money-market funds over the past two weeks, according to data from Refinitiv Lipper. The panic has subsided, but the deposit swings could have long-lasting repercussions for the communities served by smaller banks. Banks need deposits to make loans; if deposits fall, lending is almost sure to follow. What’s more, the recent turmoil could spur banks to start paying depositors higher interest rates, crimping earnings and further cutting into their lending capacities. And the speed of the recent deposit runs—customers withdrew $42 billion from SVB in a day; Signature lost $18 billion—has bankers stockpiling cash. Source WSJ

World’s Most Important Oil Price Is About to Change: After years of wrangling, the world’s most important oil price is about to be transformed for good, allowing crude supplies from west Texas to help determine the price of millions of barrels a day of petroleum transactions. The shift is because the existing benchmark, Dated Brent, is slowly running out of tradable oil for it to remain reliable. As such, its publisher S&P Global Commodity Insights — better known by traders as Platts — has been forced to make the dramatic overhaul. Dated helps to set the price of about two-thirds of the world’s oil and even defines the price of some gas deals. From cargoes for June onward, West Texas Intermediate Midland, oil from the Permian will become one of a handful of grades that set the Dated benchmark. Traders will be able to offer WTI Midland for sale from the US Gulf Coast. It will be delivered into Rotterdam and then price will be netted back using a freight adjustment factor as if it’s shipped from the North Sea. Some changes are already getting underway. In February, Platts began assessing forward prices based on the new assessment. Real cargoes of crude from the US will be allowed for inclusion from early May. An important detail in the coming weeks is just how much trading of forward Dated Brent will pick up. So far, twelve entities have conducted transactions based on the new terms, according to Platts. Source Bloomberg

More Home Sellers Sitting Out the Spring Housing Market: It might seem like a great time to list your home for sale. Buyers are flooding back into the market, mortgage rates have fallen off their recent highs, and there are still far too few homes for sale to meet demand. But potential sellers aren’t budging. New listings continued to fall in March, according to, down 20% from the same month last year. That decline in new listings outpaced the 16% drop posted in February. New listings in March were nearly 30% below pre-pandemic levels. The active inventory of homes for sale is, however, 60% higher than the start of last spring, but that is only because homes are taking longer to sell. Inventory is also half of what it was at the start of spring in 2019 before the pandemic. Homes are now sitting on the market an average of 54 days, up from an average of 36 days at the start of last spring. Time on market was longer in all of the top 50 metropolitan markets, but the greatest increases were in Raleigh, North Carolina (up 42 days), Kansas City, Missouri (up 37 days), and Austin, Texas (up 37 days). Source CNBC

House Lawmakers Vote to Block Chinese Ownership of Farmland: The House of Representatives passed a massive energy overhaul bill Thursday largely along party lines, but a roll-call vote also demonstrated strong bipartisan support for banning Chinese ownership of U.S. farm ground. Amid a string of largely party-line votes, the House voted 407-26 with 223 Republicans and 184 Democrats agreeing to add language to the energy bill that would prohibit the Chinese government or any agent from the Chinese Communist Party from buying interest in U.S. farmland or land used to produce renewable energy. The House energy bill will likely not move in the Senate, but the broad support in the vote on Chinese land ownership indicates lawmakers likely could move a separate bill or add similar language to the next farm bill. Source DTN

Man Rents House for One Week to Riyannna for Half a Mil: Spyro Malaspinas wasn’t looking to rent out his home for Super Bowl LVII in Arizona in February 2023. The 48-year-old cybersecurity expert initially balked at the idea of leasing his 6,400-square-foot, five-bedroom house on about an acre of land in Paradise Valley, an affluent town between Phoenix and Scottsdale, which he bought for $7.3 million in 2022. Then a property management firm he hired to manage a smaller investment property he owns called and offered Mr. Malaspinas a number that sent him packing. “My pride’s not that big. I don’t mind moving out for $500,000 a week.” Mr. Malaspinas, who said the rental income for that week will cover his mortgage payments for two years, later learned his tenant was Rihanna. Celebrities, athletes and business titans rent for any number of reasons, said Tomer Fridman of Compass. Summer rentals in the Hamptons and Malibu, for example, are highly-sought after with properties commanding prices from $100,000 to $1 million or more. Source WSJ

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