Stocks were little changed in April with the S&P 500 returning 1.6%, and the Nasdaq flat. Muted trading led to the VIX falling to the lowest level since November 2021. Macro data for the month was mixed. First quarter GDP came in below consensus, driven by weaker inventory investment. Headline CPI was cooler than estimates, but core CPI remains elevated. Core goods were the hottest since August 2022. March payrolls slowed to 236k in March, a stark decline from the first two months of 2023, as wage pressures cooled. Q1 earnings season has been faring better than expected with corporations beating earnings expectations slightly higher than usual, albeit estimates were revised down significantly during the quarter. Mega cap tech earnings have proven to be resilient leading to its outperformance.
Globally, performance was a bit more diverse. The MSCI Europe Index outperformed, returning 4.2%. Despite the nearly 1% decline in the U.S. dollar, EM markets underperformed due in large part to China. The MSCI China Index fell -5.2% amid fears that the Biden administration was going to impose new restrictions on investment within China in various fields including AI.
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