Global stock markets are coming off four consecutive months of gains. February, which statistically is not a great stock market month, didn't live up to its reputation. Investors remain hypnotized by the potential of artificial intelligence, and are reassured by corporate earnings and the resilience of the US economy. Christine (Lagarde) and Jerome (Powell) will return next week, but central banks don't scare investors that much any more.
Weekly variations*
39087.38  -0.11%
18302.91  +2.04%
Chart NASDAQ 100
FTSE 100
7682.50  -0.31%
Chart FTSE 100
2083.23$  +2.42%
Chart GOLD
79.43$  +4.05%
Chart WTI
1.08$  +0.18%
This week's gainers and losers

Microstrategy (+50%): Microstrategy is benefiting from the recent surge in Bitcoin, which is approaching its all-time highs. The US specialist in enterprise analytics software owns more than 190,000 Bitcoins, which it acquired at around $31,000, half the current price.

Coinbase Global (+23%): The crypto-currency exchange platform is benefiting from Bitcoin's spectacular recovery this week. The crypto-queen gained around 20% to surpass the $60,000 threshold. The rise is due to last month's SEC approval of Spot ETFs, and the associated new influx into these funds. Its peer, Robinhood Markets, gained 13% over the week.

Duolingo (32%). Shares soared as the company provided a better-than-expected revenue forecast for 2024, citing a shift to online learning and AI integration on its platform. The company's introduction of a new subscription tier featuring generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) and a significant increase in paid subscribers and active users contributed to the positive outlook. 

Direct Line Insurance (+25%): This week, the British insurer received a £3.1 billion takeover offer from its Belgian peer Ageas, representing a 43% premium on the group's closing price the previous day. Direct Line turned down the offer, believing it to undervalue the company, and saw its share price soar.

Dell Technologies (+32%): The IT company ended the week on a high note with the publication of its results. Adjusted earnings per share rose by 22% in the last quarter, while revenues fell by 11%. The real driving force behind this surge? Its  breakthrough in AI servers, with orders jumping 40% and a backlog of over $2.9 billion. To complete the picture, Dell Technologies is showering its shareholders with a 20% increase in its annual dividend, propelling its shares to new heights.

Rolls Royce (+6%): The British manufacturer of aircraft engines (not cars) reported better-than-expected full-year results, including a doubling of annual profit, record cash flow, and a strong performance in its civil aerospace division. The Group benefited in particular from its cost-cutting program, and solid sales of parts and services. It also gave encouraging forecasts for the current year, buoyed by strong demand in its defense division and the rebound in commercial air travel.


(-18%): The cloud data analytics giant cooled investors' spirits by announcing the surprise departure of its long-serving CEO Frank Slootman, and by unveiling timid, below-expectation forecasts for the coming quarter and the full year. It forecasts sales of between $745 and $750 million for the quarter, and $3.25 billion for the full year. Analysts fear a severe slowdown in growth.

Xcel Energy (-16%): The power company is facing a difficult week, following legal complications. It received a letter from a law firm informing it of possible liability in the huge Smokehouse Creek fire in Texas, which ravaged an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. At the same time, Xcel is facing legal action in Colorado in connection with the Marshall Fire of December 2021, the costliest fire in the state's history, which claimed two lives and destroyed nearly 1,100 homes.

Reckitt Benckiser (-12%): The British hygiene and household products giant disappointed investors. For the past year, it reported lower-than-expected sales and a 22% drop in profits, weighed down by a 7% drop in sales in the last quarter of the year and excessive commercial expenses in the Middle East. The Group did, however, try to keep investors happy by expressing confidence for fiscal 2024 and promising a higher return to shareholders.

UnitedHealth (-9%): The American healthcare giant suffers a correction after an antitrust investigation by the US Department of Justice was announced. UnitedHealth, which recently expanded its footprint through the acquisition of physician groups, is now under scrutiny for any potential negative impact on competition and patients.

The Chemours Company (-32%) The chemical company, a spinoff from Dupont, saw its stock plummet 39% in pre-market trading after the company announced significant changes in its leadership, with Denise Dignam stepping in as interim CEO and Matt Abbott as interim CFO. The current CEO, Mark Newman, along with CFO Jonathan Lock and Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer Camela Wisel, have been placed on administrative leave. The company also delayed the release of its financial results due to concerns about the accuracy of its financial reporting, which was initially scheduled for February 28.
Chart Commodities
Energy: Tensions continue unabated in the Middle East, supporting oil prices. Crossing the Red Sea remains uncertain due to the threat from the Yemeni Houthis, while in Gaza, the heavy toll paid by Palestinian civilians significantly complicates negotiations on a possible ceasefire. Oil remains locked within a narrow price range, proof that financiers are navigating between the prospects of central bank rate cuts and the dynamics of oil demand, particularly in China. In the United States, weekly inventories rose once again, by around 4 million barrels. In terms of prices, crude rose by around 2% this week, with Brent and WTI trading at USD 83 and USD 79 respectively.

Metals: Industrial metal prices moved up and down this week. The latest Chinese economic data on the country's manufacturing sector did not provide any additional visibility on demand for metals, as the official manufacturing PMI remained in contraction territory (49.1 points), while that compiled by Caixin remained in progression territory, at 50.9 points. Copper is trading at around USD 8400 on the London Metal Exchange. In precious metals, gold rebounded to USD 2055, benefiting from a lull in bond yields.

Agricultural products: Things remain the same in Chicago, where grain prices are struggling to recover, with a bushel of corn and wheat trading at 430 and 575 cents respectively. In Europe, the European Commission slightly raised its production estimate for corn (to 62.3 million tonnes from 61.4), but not for wheat, which was revised downwards (to 125.6 million tonnes from 125.9).
Chart Commodities
Rates. When it comes to inflation-related indicators, PCE is king. This measure of US inflation came out perfectly in line with expectations. On an annual basis, the seasonally-adjusted core PCE rose by +2.8%. While stock market indexes increased their gains following this data, the yield on the US 10-year bond remained virtually flat, proving that these figures did not significantly move lines. It continues to oscillate within a narrow consolidation band of between 4.35% and 4.20%. As things stand, the market is not pricing in a rate cut before the summer. In Europe, preliminary inflation indicators for February turned out to be stronger than expected. This reinforced the market's conviction that nothing will happen next week with the ECB. In China, PMI indicators were weak in industry and a little better in services. Finally, let's end in Japan, where the new governor of the central bank proved more reticent than expected about raising key interest rates. The yen flinched at this announcement, which could prolong the status quo that has prevailed in the archipelago for... 17 years.

Crypto. Bitcoin ended February with a stratospheric gain: +43%. You'd have to go back to December 2020 to find such performances for the digital currency. This week was marked by a new record for inflows into Bitcoin Spot ETFs, particularly on Wednesday, with $673 million trickling into these exchange-traded products on a single day, helping the asset to rise by almost 20% since Monday. Bitcoin is now flirting with the $62,000 mark. This wave of optimism on BTC also took the major cryptocurrencies with it, including Ethereum (ETH) at +10%, Cardano (ADA) at +15%, Solana (SOL) at +30%, and even Dogecoin (DOGE) at +41%. Speculation is well and truly back on the cryptocurrency market.
Historical Chart
Christine and Jerome are back
Central banks are back in force next week. The ECB is expected to leave rates unchanged after its meeting on March 7. At the same time, Jerome Powell is scheduled to appear before the congressional committees of the US Congress on March 6 and 7 to provide an update on monetary policy and the economic outlook. Monthly US employment data, always closely watched, will complete the picture on March 8. The pace of earnings releases is still slowing, but that won't stop CrowdStrike, Costco, Oracle, Henkel, Bayer, Thales and a few others from coming under the market's microscope.
Things to read this week
Discover 5 fast-growing companies Discover 5 fast-growing companies
On Holdings: a sprint to success On Holding is a Swiss company founded in Zurich in 2010 by the trio of Olivier Bernhard, former Swiss Ironman champion,... Read more
Behind the numbers -  $197 billion, that's Bernard Arnault's estimated fortuneBehind the numbers - $197 billion, that's Bernard Arnault's estimated fortune
Read more
Edgy Insights: The key factors of performanceEdgy Insights: The key factors of performance
Background to the study The study "Determinants of Portfolio Performance" by Gary P. Brinson, L. Randolph Hood and Gilbert L. Beebower, published in the... Read more
*The weekly movements of indexes and stocks displayed on the dashboard are related to the period ranging from the open on Monday to the sending time of this newsletter on Friday.
The weekly movements of commodities, precious metals and currencies displayed on the dashboard are related to a 7-day rolling period from Friday to Friday, until the sending time of this newsletter. These assets continue to quote on weekends.