Investment Commentary –September 20, 2023
Year to Date Market Indices as of September 20, 2023
• Dow 34,510 (4.13%)
• S&P 4,443 (15.74%)
• NASDAQ 13,678 (30.69%)
• OIL $91.72 (13.85%)
• Barclay Bond Aggregate (1.15%)
• Gold $1,952 (6.69%)
Fed declines to hike, but points to rates staying higher for longer
The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady, while also indicating it still expects one more hike before the end of the year and fewer cuts than previously indicated next year.
Along with the rate projections, the Fed also sharply revised up its economic growth expectations for this year, with gross domestic product now expected to rise 2.1% this year.
In addition to holding rates at relatively high levels, the Fed is continuing to reduce its bond holdings, a process that has cut the central bank balance sheet by some $815 billion since June 2022
The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady in a decision released Wednesday, while also indicating it still expects one more hike before the end of the year and fewer cuts than previously indicated next year.
That final increase, if realized, would do it for this cycle, according to projections the central bank released at the end of its two-day meeting. If the Fed goes ahead with the move, it would make a full dozen hikes since the policy tightening began in March 2022.
Markets had fully priced in no move at this meeting, which kept the fed funds rate in a targeted range between 5.25%-5.5%, the highest in some 22 years. The rate fixes what banks charge each other for overnight lending but also spills over into many forms of consumer debt.
While the no-hike was expected, there was considerable uncertainty over where the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee would go from here. Judging from documents released Wednesday, the bias appears toward more restrictive policy and a higher-for-longer approach to interest rates.
That outlook initially weighed on the market, with the S&P 500 falling immediately after the announcement. However, stocks oscillated as Fed Chair Jerome Powell took questions during a news conference and were recently lower.
“We’re in a position to proceed carefully in determining the extent of additional policy firming,” Powell said.
However, he added that the central bank would like to see more progress in its fight against inflation.
“We want to see convincing evidence really that we have reached the appropriate level, and we’re seeing progress and we welcome that. But, you know, we need to see more progress before we’ll be willing to reach that conclusion,” he said.
Projections released in the Fed’s dot plot showed the likelihood of one more increase this year, then two cuts in 2024, two fewer than were indicated during the last update in June. That would put the funds rate around 5.1%. The plot allows members to indicate anonymously where they think rates are headed.
Twelve participants at the meeting penciled in the additional hike, while seven opposed it. That put one more in opposition than at the June meeting. Recently confirmed Fed Governor Adriana Kugler was not a voter at the last meeting. The projection for the fed funds rate also moved higher for 2025, with the median outlook at 3.9%, compared with 3.4% previously.
Over the longer term, FOMC members again pointed to a funds rate of 2.9% in 2026. That’s above what the Fed considers the “neutral” rate of interest that is neither stimulative nor restrictive for growth. This was the first time the committee provided a look at 2026. The long-run expected neutral rate held at 2.5%.
Economic growth seen higher
Along with the rate projections, members also sharply revised up their economic growth expectations for this year, with gross domestic product now expected to increase by 2.1% this year. That was more than double the June estimate and indicative that members do not anticipate a recession anytime soon. The 2024 GDP outlook moved up to 1.5%, from 1.1%.
The views presented are not intended to be relied on as a forecast, research or investment advice and are the opinions of the sources cited and are subject to change based on subsequent developments. They are not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investments.
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