The Rolling Stones sing in “All Down the Line”:
“We’ll be watching out for trouble, yeah
(All down the line)
And we’d better keep the motor running, yeah
(All down the line)”
OVERVIEW AND CONCLUSION
Financial marketplace trends entangle in diverse fashions, which of course can change, and sometimes dramatically. Convergence and divergence (lead/lag) relationships between them can and do evolve, sometimes significantly. An increasing reversal of a given ongoing prior set of patterns between one or more key interest rate, stock, currency, and commodity marketplaces thus can attract growing attention and accelerate price moves in the new directions.
In general, since around the beginning of calendar 2022, as American and other key global government interest rates continued to rise (enlist the United States Treasury note as a benchmark), the S+P 500 (and other advanced nation and emerging marketplace stock playgrounds) declined. Growing fears regarding substantial and persistent consumer price (and other) inflation by the Federal Reserve and its central banking allies and the linked policy response of raising Federal Funds and similar rates played key roles in the yield climbs and stock price falls. Bear trends for other “search for yield” assets such as corporate bonds and United States dollar-denominated emerging marketplace corporate debt converged with those of the S+P 500 and emerging marketplace stocks. Commodities “in general” (“overall”) of course do not always trade “together” in the same direction around the same time as the S+P 500. Nevertheless, in broad brush terms since around late first quarter 2022, their downward price and time trends converged. A very strong US dollar encouraged the relationships of higher US Treasury yields, descending stock prices, and eroding prices for commodities “in general”.
However, the US 10 year note yield achieved an important high on 10/21/22 at 4.34 percent. Using the Federal Reserve Board’s nominal Broad Dollar Index as a weathervane, the dollar peaked at 128.6 on 9/27/22 and 10/19/22. The S+P 500 established a trough in its bear trend with 10/13/22’s 3492. Based on the S+P GSCI, commodities in general attained an important low on 9/28/22 at 591.8. Note the roughly similar times (and thus the convergence) of these marketplace turns, which thereafter reversed, at least temporarily, the preceding substantial trends.
What key changes in central bank policy and marketplace inflation yardsticks encouraged the recent slump in the UST 10 year yield, the depreciation in the US dollar, and the jump in the S+P 500 and the prices of related hunt for yield (adequate return) battlefields? First, various members of the Federal Reserve leadership hinted that future rate increases would slow in extent (be fifty basis points or less rather than 75bp). See the Financial Times summary of officials leaning that way (11/12-13/22, p2). The Fed probably will tolerate a brief recession to defeat inflation, but it (and of course the general public and politicians) likely would hate a severe one. In today’s international and intertwined economy, further substantial price falls (beneath recent lows) in the stock and corporate debt arenas (and other search for yield interest rate territories), and even greater weakness than has thus far appeared in home prices, plus a “too strong” US dollar, are a recipe for a fairly severe recession. Hence the Fed’s recent rhetorical murmurings aim to stabilize marketplaces (and encourage consumer and business confidence and spending) and avoid a substantial GDP drop.
Second, US consumer price inflation for October 2022 stood at “only” 7.7 percent year-on-year. This rate fell short of expectations for that month and declined from heights exceeding eight percent in the several preceding months. This sparked hopes that American (and maybe even global) inflation would continue to decline even more in the future, and that the Federal Reserve and other central bank guardians would engage in less fierce tightening trends.
Of course the Fed policy hints and US consumer inflation statistics do not stand apart from other variables. Might China ease its restrictive Covid-fighting policy, thus enabling the country’s GDP to expand more rapidly?
The trends for commodities in general (employ an index such as the broad S+P GSCI) and the petroleum complex in particular sometimes have diverged substantially for a while from that of the S+P 500. After all, petroleum, wheat, and base metals have their own supply/demand and inventory situations. The broad S+P GSCI stabilized in early autumn 2022 due to a determined effort by OPEC to rally petroleum prices via production cuts. And over the long run, the S+P 500 and commodities tend to trade together. OPEC+’s ability to successfully defend a Brent/North Sea crude oil price around 83 dollars per barrel (nearest futures continuation) depends substantially on interest rate and stock levels and trends, as well as the extent of US dollar strength.
The “too strong” US dollar during calendar 2022 encouraged price declines in assorted search for yield asset classes, including emerging marketplace stocks and debt instruments as well as commodities. The recent depreciation of the US dollar thus has interrelated with (confirmed) the price rallies in recent days in the S+P 500 and other marketplaces. Yet the Federal Reserve probably will remain sufficiently vigorous in comparison with other central banks in its fight against inflation, which should tend to keep the dollar strong, even if it stays beneath its recent high.
Investors in (and other owners of) stocks and other search for yield realms and their financial and media friends joyously applauded recent price rallies. However, to what extent will these bullish moves persist?
US consumer price and other key global inflation indicators remain very high relative to current central bank policy rates. Not only does the US CPI-U all items year-on-year percentage increase of 7.7 percent for October 2022 substantially exceed UST 10 year yields over four percent, but so does October 2022’s 6.3 percent year-on-year increase in the CPI-U less food and energy.
Imagine consumer price inflation staying at only 4.5 percent. To give investors a 50 basis point return relative to inflation, the UST should yield five percent. Thus the Fed will continue to push rates higher in its serious battle against inflation, and eventually the rising UST yield pattern probably will reappear, persisting until there are signs of much lower inflation or a notable recession.
Although marketplace history is not marketplace destiny, history reveals that significant climbs in key US interest rate signposts (such as the UST 10 year) tend to precede substantial falls in US stock benchmarks such as the S+P 500. Thus the S+P 500 probably will resume its decline, although it will be difficult for it to breach its October 2022 depth by much in the absence of a sustained global recession. So a return to rising UST rates, all else equal, probably will keep the dollar fairly powerful from the long run historic perspective, even though the dollar will find it challenging to exceed its recent highs by much (if at all) for very long.
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Critical Conditions in Financial Marketplaces (11-13-22)