The Fed is facing a herculean task, argues the Wall Street Journal. That task is to keep inflation at its target, while also steering a moderation in growth. In other words, how does the Fed keep inflation in check without causing a recession? One way to consider this challenge is to think about how the Fed may approach it: “focus more on the domestic economy and keep nudging interest rates higher to combat inflationary concerns, or pay greater attention to stresses abroad and in the markets, and hold rates steady or even nudge them lower”, says the WSJ.
FINSUM: We think this is not as hard as rumored. Our view is that the Fed should freeze rate hikes and broadcast that a long-term freeze is the plan. That should put the economy (and markets) on solid footing, and keep things from getting too out of hand.
If that headline sounds like relief to your ears, read further. While there are no clear signs out of the Fed yet (other than increasingly dovish talk), new data is showing that the Fed may cut rates in 2019. The forward spread shows that traders are anticipating a rate cut at the beginning of the year. Two-year Treasuries have seen their yields slip below one-years’. This is the first time this has happened since 2008. According to a market strategist at Pimco, “This is a crystal ball, it’s telling you about the future and what the market thinks of the Fed and what it will do with its policy rate”.
FINSUM: We don’t think the Fed will cut in the first quarter unless something more drastic happens, but we are quite sure they won’t hike.
For the last few weeks, the Fed looked like an out of touch ivory tower central bank committed to driving the US economy into a recession through relentless rate hikes (or at least that was the anxious view). However, the Fed has finally made an announcement which gave investors some calm. The head of the NY Fed commented that being “data dependent” meant listening to markets too, not just the economy. He also contextualized the language from the last Fed meeting, softening its impact. The market jumped immediately on the news.
FINSUM: Too bad it isn’t Jerome Powell making the comments. That said, the Fed must be starting to get nervous that we are close to a bear market.
Yesterday was a big moment for Fed and the markets. Trump has come down hard on the Fed for its relentless hikes, and the market is in the midst of a very rough period. Additionally, labor figures and inflation data have started to slip. All of that meant the Fed had the option of backing off the pedal on hikes. They didn’t, raising rates another quarter point. The central bank did make the small concession of saying they only planned to hike twice next year instead of the four increases they made this year.
FINSUM: The housing market is bad, the stock market is terrible, credit markets are weak, and inflation is falling. Why is the Fed still hiking?
There is a lot of doom and gloom out there right now. The stock market is in major pullback mode over a wide range of fears. One of the main ones is the threat of a recession coming next year. A lot of signs, like the inverted yield curve, are pointing towards an economic reversal. However, according to Barron’s, the reality is that a recession is unlikely. Rather, we will likely just return to the post-Crisis norm of slower, steadier growth (think 2.0-2.5%). A couple of factors will weigh on growth, including higher rates and a fading influence of the most recent tax cuts.
FINSUM: A return to normal growth seems about equally likely to us as a recession. No one really knows. A lot of it may come down to how hawkish the Fed is, as the central bank could easily steer the economy into a recession.