President Biden renominated Jerome Powell as Fed Chair on Monday this week in perhaps the purest bi-partisan reaction from the President since he entered office. The news was celebrated on wall street as both the bond and equity markets felt the reprieve. Additionally, Republicans on the senate banking committee rejoiced at the pick given Powell’s historical ties to the republican party. Powell was assumed to be in a close contest for the Fed position with Lael Brainard, but ultimately continuity was valued moving into the next phase of the post-covid recession. Still Powell’s road is difficult moving forward given sluggish employment and growth, and rising inflationary pressures.
FINSUM: This was a wise decision by Biden politically, and markets trust Powell to be dovish even as a republican which is the best of both worlds for the economy.
Tech stocks had a big fall this week, but it more importantly it was the concentration of tech stocks that hedge funds loaded up on that took the biggest tumble. For instance, Farfetch Ltd. and Snowflake Inc. faced their largest drops since March. Hedge funds have been bullish on growth stocks and the high value/low income stocks set record holdings dating back to 2002. Driving tech’s downfall are rate hikes being priced into yields and undermining stocks hinging on future cash flows, like tech.
FINSUM: Tech stocks are more fragile than ever because profits are dwindling after the pandemic boost, and future rate hikes could cause serious tech blowback.
Small caps have been sluggish since Q2 2022 most indicated by the poorer returns in the Russell 2000 and S&P 600 Small Cap. However, things could turn around for the smaller companies moving forward. A value tilt is pervasive through many small cap companies and as the yield curve begins to steepen that value tilt will edge out over larger growth companies. The other factor favoring small caps is the pending corporate tax minimum. Only 1 of the S&P 600 small caps will see their liabilities rise but lots of S&P 500 companies will face new tax burdens which they previously avoided. This is a historic opportunity for small caps moving into 2022.
FINSUM: With Powell’s renomination it's more likely the yield curve will steepen as future rate hikes will be priced in but no real indication of a move currently; increasing the likelihood of a small cap comeback.
Inflation is as buzzy as it has been since the 1970s, and the nation’s energy crisis is drawing another parallel to that decade. In an attempt to curb oil prices Biden released the nation's oil reserves hoping to drive down gas prices. However, earlier this year Biden tried to pressure OPEC+ to increase production to put downward pressure on prices and they rejected. Sure, if OPEC+ maintains production or actually increases (as they had stated they would) then prices will fall, but OPEC+ and other oil producers like Russia target a $70+ per barrel price point to optimize their profits. Many are speculating that this will cause OPEC+ to pull back production after their meeting in December, and spark a rift between oil producers and consumers like the U.S.
FINSUM: This is a desperate attempt by Biden to control prices which there has been little to no precedent for in past presidencies. This could blow up by hurting U.S. producers more and leaving oil prices unchanged.
The $2 trillion Build Back Bill pushed through a contested House of Representatives last week and the climate and social-focused stimulus bill have a complicated tax code in order to garner support. BBB features a dynamic tax system with moving parts that evolves as years develop. Most significant of which is a tax break of about 5.4% relative to current legislation for those earning more than $1 million a year. This tax breaks scales down in income down to $75k, but spikes below that. However, this tax break is very temporary as the lion’s share of the legislation will be paid by higher income individuals. There are other benefits for the rich such as SALT relief, but by and large, starting in 2023 higher corporate taxes and a bump in personal income taxes of 5% will begin to take effect.
FINSUM: Biden’s BBB could be a bad storm of events for the economy where stimulus boosts inflation and higher taxes keep markets and real growth from keeping up.