Remain vigilant as we might see more rate hikes later this summer
The decision by the Federal Reserve to pause its upward trajectory of the federal funds rate – after 10 straight hikes over the past 14 months – has significant implications for investors. As the central bank of the United States, the Fed’s monetary policy decisions have a profound impact on financial markets and the investment landscape.
Let’s explore what this pause means for investors and explore potential strategies to navigate this new environment.
Understanding the Pause
To grasp the implications of the Fed’s pause, it is crucial to understand the underlying reasons for this shift in policy. The Federal Reserve’s primary mandate is to maintain price stability and support maximum employment. The decision to halt rate hikes suggests that the Fed believes inflationary pressures may be lessening or that the economy requires more time to fully recover. By pausing rate hikes, the central bank aims to provide ongoing support to economic growth.
Bond and Fixed-Income Investments
The Fed’s pause on rate hikes has immediate implications for bond and fixed-income investors. Typically, rising interest rates lead to declining bond prices. However, with the Fed indicating a pause in rate hikes, bond prices may stabilize or even experience modest gains. This is particularly relevant for long-term bondholders who were concerned about potential losses in a rising rate environment.
Nevertheless, investors should remain vigilant. While the pause in rate hikes may provide some relief, it is essential to monitor inflationary trends and the Federal Reserve’s future actions. Unexpected shifts in inflation expectations or the resumption of rate hikes could still impact fixed-income investments.
Equity Markets and Investment Strategies
The Fed’s pause on rate hikes can also have a significant impact on equity markets. Historically, low interest rates have been supportive of stock prices, as they reduce borrowing costs for businesses and increase the present value of future earnings. Investors should consider the potential for continued strength in equity markets as long as the pause in rate hikes persists.
However, it is crucial to exercise caution and avoid complacency. Market conditions can change rapidly, and investors should remain attentive to both global economic developments and the possibility of future rate hikes. Adopting a diversified investment strategy that balances exposure across sectors and geographies can help mitigate risks associated with potential market volatility.
Related Report: Charles Schwab’s Mid-Year Outlook
Sector Rotation and Asset Allocation
The pause in rate hikes offers an opportunity for investors to reassess their sector allocations and asset mix.
Certain sectors, such as utilities and real estate, tend to perform well in a low-interest-rate environment.
These sectors often exhibit stable cash flows and attractive dividend yields, making them appealing to income-focused investors.
Conversely, sectors like financials and banking may face challenges due to narrower interest rate spreads. Investors may consider rotating their investments into sectors that could benefit from the pause in rate hikes, while also maintaining a long-term perspective and keeping diversification in mind.
The Fed’s decision to pause rate hikes also has implications beyond the United States. Lower interest rates in the U.S. can lead to a weaker U.S. dollar, potentially benefiting international investments and exporters. Investors should consider the potential impact on currency valuations and diversify their portfolios by allocating a portion of their investments to international markets.
What Investors Should Do
The Federal Reserve’s pause on rate hikes represents a significant development for investors. The decision suggests that the central bank is carefully monitoring economic conditions and adjusting its policies accordingly. Bond and fixed-income investors may find some respite, while equity investors should remain attentive to potential shifts in market dynamics.
To navigate this evolving landscape, investors should adopt a diversified approach, reassess sector allocations, and consider the potential benefits of international investments.
Staying informed, monitoring economic indicators, and seeking professional advice can help investors make well-informed decisions in this environment of paused rate hikes. Even if it only lasts for a month.
Markets Mixed as Growth and Tech Names Jump on Hopes That the Fed Might Have Reached an Inflection Point on Hiking Rates
- This week was dominated by banking worries that started with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank last week and spread to Signature Bank of New York and a few others this week
- But before markets opened on Monday, Wall Street learned through a joint statement from the Federal Reserve, Treasury, and the FDIC that all depositors at SVB and Signature Bank would be able to access deposits on Monday, despite being taken over by regulators
- When Friday’s final Wall Street bell rung, equity returns were mixed, as the small-cap Russell 2000 lost 2.6%, pushing it into the red for the year (YTD: -2.0%) and the mega-cap DJIA lost 0.1%, pushing it further into the red for the year (YTD: -3.9%)
- The tech-heavy NASDAQ, on the other hand, leapt an astonishing 4.4%, as investors hoped that the Fed’s rate hiking might slow down or be over for the year
- The large-cap S&P 500 inched up 1.4% and is positive for the year (YTD: +2.0%)
- Of the 11 S&P 500 sectors, 6 were positive, with the growth sectors, especially Communication Services (+6.9%) and Information Technology (+5.7%), outpacing the defensive sectors like Utilities (+3.9%) and Consumer staples (+1.3%)
- The 2-year Treasury yield sank 77 basis points to 3.82% and the 10-year Treasury note yield fell 29 basis points to 3.40%
- Oil prices dropped 13.5% this week to $66.33/barrel, the lowest level since December 2021
Weekly Market Update – March 17, 2023
Close Week YTD DJIA 31,862 -0.1% -3.9% S&P 500 3,917 +1.4% +2.0% NASDAQ 11,631 +4.4% +11.0% Russell 2000 1,726 -2.6% -2.0% MSCI EAFE 1,986 -3.5% +2.2% Bond Index* 2,090.71 +1.75% +2.04% 10-Year Treasury 3.41% -0.29% -0.5%
*Source: Bonds represented by the Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond TR USD.
This chart is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent the performance of any specific security. Past performance cannot guarantee future results
Markets Mixed as Bank-Failure-Worries Ease
It was another volatile week for equity markets around the world, as pressures mounted on the banking sector as concerns grew after the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank and worries at First Republic Bank and Credit Suisse.
And while pundits were quick to call attention to the big bank failures of 2008/2009, this week was different as governments (including the Fed, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Treasury Department) and other well-capitalized banks stepped in quickly to put worries at ease.
Then as bond yields dropped swiftly, equities rebounded, giving investors a good case of whiplash. When the week ended, the major U.S. equity indices finished mixed, as the current banking worries might ultimately end up as an inflection point where the Fed slows down or even pauses future rate hikes this year.
Not surprisingly, the 11 S&P 500 sectors varied markedly, with 5 of the 11 ending the week in the red. Specifically, Communication Services (+6.9%) and Information Technology (+5.7%) made big weekly jumps and Financials (-4.9%) and Energy (-6.9%) struggled with big losses. The range in sector returns was further underscored as Large Growth outperformed Large Value by almost 6%.
While the bank failures were unpleasant, glass-half-full investors were hopeful that the Fed might adjust its monetary policy and not raise rates by as much. By the end of the week, the fed fund futures markets were pricing in zero likelihood of a 50-basis-point hike versus a 40% chance just one week ago and an almost 40% chance of no rate hike at the Fed’s upcoming meeting on March 21st.
While it seemed everyone was focused on the latest banking news, there was a lot of economic data this week too, including:
- The Consumer Price Index was was up 0.4% month-over-month in February, and up 6.0% year-over-year, which was the smallest 12-month increase since September 2021
- Core CPI, which excludes food and energy, was up 0.5% month-over-month and up 5.5% year-over-year, which was the smallest 12-month increase since December 2021
- The February NFIB Small Business Optimism Index came in at 90.9
- Weekly MBA Mortgage Applications Index were up 6.5%
- February Retail Sales were down 0.4%
- February Retail Sales ex-autos were down 0.1%
- February PPI was down 0.1%
- February Core PPI was flat at 0.0%
- January Business Inventories were down 0.1%
- Weekly Initial Claims came in at 192,000
- February Import Prices were down 0.1%
- February Export Prices were up 0.2%
- Leading Indicators fell 0.3% in February
- The preliminary University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for March dropped to 63.4
Consumer Price Index Records Smaller Increase, But Food Index is Up 9.5% Over the Last Year
On Tuesday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers rose 0.4% in February, after increasing 0.5% in January. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 6.0% before seasonal adjustment.
- The index for shelter was the largest contributor to the monthly all items increase, accounting for over 70% of the increase, with the indexes for food, recreation, and household furnishings and operations also contributing.
- The food index increased 0.4% over the month with the food at home index rising 0.3%.
- The energy index decreased 0.6% over the month as the natural gas and fuel oil indexes both declined.
- Categories which increased in February include shelter, recreation, household furnishings and operations, and airline
- The index for used cars and trucks and the index for medical care were among those that decreased over the month.
Inflation Over the Past 12-Month
The all items index increased 6.0% for the 12 months ending February; this was the smallest 12-month increase since the period ending September 2021.
- The all items less food and energy index rose 5.5% over the last 12 months, its smallest 12-month increase since December 2021.
- The energy index increased 5.2% for the 12 months ending February.
- The food index increased 9.5% over the last year.
- The food index increased 0.4% in February, and the food at home index rose 0.3% over the month. Five of the six major grocery store food group indexes increased over the month. The index for nonalcoholic beverages increased 1.0% in February, after a 0.4% increase the previous month. The indexes for other food at home and for cereals and bakery products each rose 0.3% over the month. The index for fruits and vegetables increased 0.2% in February, and the index for dairy and related products rose 0.1%.
- In contrast, the meats, poultry, fish, and eggs index fell 0.1 percent over the month, the first decrease in that index since December 2021. The index for eggs fell 6.7% in February following sharp increases in recent months.
Nearly Half of Small Businesses Have Job Openings They Can’t Fill
Early in the week, the National Federation of Independent Businesses reported that 47% of small business owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period.
Specifically, “[t]he percent of small business owners reporting labor quality as their top small business operating problem remains elevated at 21%, down three points from January. Labor cost reported as the single most important problem to business owners increased two points to 12%, down one point below the highest reading of 13% reached in December 2021.
A seasonally adjusted net 17% of owners are planning to create new jobs in the next three months, down two points from January and 15 points below its record high reading of 32 reached in August 2021, showing that the trend in planned hiring is on the decline.
Sixty percent of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in January, up three points from January. Of those hiring or trying to hire, 90% of owners reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Thirty percent of owners reported few qualified applicants for their open positions.
- 46% of owners reported raising compensation, unchanged from last month.
- 23% plan to raise compensation in the next three months, up one point from January.
- 38% of owners have job openings for skilled workers.
- 19% have openings for unskilled labor.
- This week was dominated by banking worries that started with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank last week and spread to Signature Bank of New York and a few others this week
On Tuesday, the National Association of Realtors reported that existing-home sales fell for the 12th straight month in January. In addition, month-over-month sales were mixed among the four major U.S. regions, as the South and West registered increases, while the East and Midwest experienced declines. All regions recorded year-over-year declines.
- Existing-home sales waned for the twelfth consecutive month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.00 million. Sales slipped 0.7% from December 2022 and 36.9% from the previous year.
- The median existing-home sales price increased 1.3% from one year ago to $359,000.
- The inventory of unsold existing homes grew from the prior month to 980,000 at the end of January, or the equivalent of 2.9 months’ supply at the current monthly sales pace.
“Home sales are bottoming out. Prices vary depending on a market’s affordability, with lower-priced regions witnessing modest growth and more expensive regions experiencing declines. Inventory remains low, but buyers are beginning to have better negotiating power.
Homes sitting on the market for more than 60 days can be purchased for around 10% less than the original list price.”
- The median existing-home pricefor all housing types in January was $359,000, an increase of 1.3% from January 2022 ($354,300), as prices climbed in three out of four U.S. regions while falling in the West.
- This marks 131 consecutive months of year-over-year increases, the longest-running streak on record.
- Properties typically remained on the market for 33 days in January, up from 26 in December and 19 in January 2022. 54% of homes sold in January were on the market for less than a month.
Location, Location, Location
- Existing-home sales in the Northeast retracted 3.8% from December, down 35.9% from January 2022. The median price in the Northeast was $383,000, up 0.3% from the previous year.
- In the Midwest, existing-home sales slid 5.0% from the previous month, declining 33.3% from one year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $252,300, up 2.7% from January 2022.
- Existing-home sales in the South rose 1.1% in January from December, a 36.6% decrease from the prior year. The median price in the South was $332,500, an increase of 3.4% from one year ago.
- In the West, existing-home sales elevated 2.9% in January, down 42.4% from the previous year. The median price in the West was $525,200, down 4.6% from January 2022.
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Three local financial experts share their advice.
Written by Gene Marks
Even as commercial lending rates have more than doubled in the last year, interest rates earned on checking, money market and savings accounts remain stubbornly low as banks seek to maintain their profitability.
That’s not helpful for business owners, who need to earn money on their cash reserves while keeping enough liquidity to meet faily working capital needs. Options remain limited, but the environment is slowly changing, and a number of investment choices with minimal risks are emerging.
Click here to read full article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, featuring Andrew Hipple CFP®, Partner at Lane Hipple Wealth Management Group.
The Conference Board was founded in 1916 by a group of CEOs “concerned about the impact of workplace issues on business, and with a desire for greater cooperation and knowledge sharing among businesses.”
Every month, the Conference Board compiles a composite of economic indexes designed to signal peaks and troughs in the business cycle. The leading, coincident, and lagging economic indexes are essentially composite averages of 10 individual indicators and help smooth out some of the volatility of individual components.
The ten components include:
- Average weekly hours, manufacturing
- Average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance
- Manufacturers’ new orders, consumer goods and materials
- ISM Index of New Orders
- Manufacturers’ new orders, nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft orders
- Building permits, new private housing units
- Stock prices, 500 common stocks
- Leading Credit Index
- Interest rate spread, 10-year Treasury bonds less federal funds
- Average consumer expectations for business conditions
Leading Indicators Signaling a Recession
On January 23rd, the Conference Board announced that its Leading Economic Index for the U.S. decreased by 1.0% in December 2022 to 110.5 (2016=100), following a decline of 1.1% in November.
The LEI is now down 4.2% over the six-month period between June and December 2022 – a much steeper rate of decline than its 1.9% contraction over the previous six-month period (December 2021–June 2022).
“The US LEI fell sharply again in December – continuing to signal recession for the US economy in the near term. There was widespread weakness among leading indicators in December, indicating deteriorating conditions for labor markets, manufacturing, housing construction, and financial markets in the months ahead.
Meanwhile, the coincident economic index (CEI) has not weakened in the same fashion as the LEI because labor market related indicators (employment and personal income) remain robust. Nonetheless, industrial production – also a component of the CEI – fell for the third straight month.
Overall economic activity is likely to turn negative in the coming quarters before picking up again in the final quarter of 2023.”
The trajectory of the US LEI continues to signal a recession