According to a Farmers’ Almanac weather folklore, “If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.” This stems from an ancestral belief in balance, meaning if the weather at the start of March was bad (roaring, like a roaring lion), the month should end with good weather (gentle, like a lamb). The application of the folklore could be used to describe the markets for the month of March as well.
March produced the first positive monthly return in market indexes, rebounded sharply from its lowest point of the year at the end of February. The S&P 500 finished up 3.58% in March, bringing its YTD return to -4.95%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 2.32%, bringing its YTD return to -4.57%. Bond markets began signaling recession fears by narrowing the difference between short-term interest rates and long-term rates.1
Persistent inflation controlled the narrative, with the first and most obvious spike in commodity prices due to the continued Russia/Ukraine war. With Russia producing 12% of the world's oil and Ukraine and Russia combining to supply 30% of the world's grain, the total effects to the world economy from this conflict will be ongoing and create further uncertainty in markets.
Another somewhat unrelated effect is the US Federal Reserve’s path to tightening monetary policy. On March 16th, the Fed raised interest rates and signaled an aggressive timetable for future rate hikes.2
There is good news for both consumers and corporations. We are seeing healthy balance sheets, low interest rates, low unemployment, and resurging consumer demand that continue to fuel increased spending and rising profits.2
Markets for the month of March truly came in like a lion and finished softly like a lamb. Therefore, when we think about the lion and the lamb, maybe its best to quote Martin Amis, “Only in art will the lion lie down with the lamb, and the rose grow without thorn.” If the lion is headwinds, inflation, and volatility, the roaring lion will persist as we March throughout the year.
Director of Wealth Advisory