Stocks and bonds were both down following comments by Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller that rate cuts will be implemented slowly. Both are now in the red on a YTD basis. According to Waller, “When the time is right to begin lowering rates, I believe it can and should be lowered methodically and carefully.” As opposed to previous cycles, when cuts were implemented aggressively and quickly, Waller sees a slower, more gradual pace this time around.
His comments had a chilling effect, especially as financial markets had been in a buoyant mood, looking ahead to rate cuts later this year and the possibility of a ‘soft landing’. While Waller injected a dose of hawkishness, recent economic data has also been on the weak side, adding to recession fears. Needless to say, such developments reduce the odds of a ‘soft landing’ scenario.
Currently, Fed futures markets indicate a 60% chance of a cut at the March FOMC meeting. Going into that meeting, inflation and labor market data will be major factors in this decision and market-moving events. Q4 earnings season is also starting, and it will be worth watching whether the improvement in Q3 will continue. The current consensus is for S&P 500 Q4 earnings to increase by 1.6% compared to last year.
Finsum: Stocks and bonds weakened following hawkish comments from Fed Governor Waller. Waller sees a slower pace of rate cuts during this cycle than previous ones.