The first quarter is in the books and the stock market has had the best start to a year since 1998. The S&P 500 is up 12.3%, while the small company index the Russell 2000 is 14% higher. The factors that drove that first quarter performance may be unlikely to carry the day in the months ahead. Expect returns to moderate, we can’t continue at this pace.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Saturday called for governments to play a greater role in regulating the Internet, citing four areas where he believes better rules are needed. Zuckerberg said new regulations are needed to protect society from harmful content, ensure election integrity, protect people’s privacy and to guarantee data portability. Facebook has faced a torrent of public criticism over its handling of Russian intervention in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and its policies on hate speech that many governments and users consider too lax. At the same time, conservative lawmakers in the U.S. have accused Facebook of political bias and censorship.
Another round of downbeat economic data sent the yield on Germany’s 10-year government bond back below 0% for the first time since 2016, highlighting a renewed rise in the amount of debt world-wide offering negative yields. Amid a gloomy global backdrop, more investors are willing to accept negative returns. The total sum of negative-yielding debt in bond issues represented globally stood at nearly $9.7 trillion, marking a more than 50% increase from September.
Rates for home loans tumbled, as investors snatched up safe assets in the wake of a Federal Reserve policy announcement that took markets by surprise. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.06%, according to mortgage guarantor Freddie Mac. That was a 14-month low, and the 22-basis point slide was the biggest weekly decline since June 2009.