Markets prepare for challenging times as the Fed ramps up its inflation fight.
As the Federal Reserve (Fed) committed itself to battling inflation this year, one question looming large was how aggressive a tack it would take. In June, we received a second, clarifying answer.
In light of continuing high inflation, the Fed took a more forceful approach than it had indicated just weeks earlier, raising the federal funds rate by 0.75% – the largest single bump to interest rates since 1994, and the third hike this year. Raising the rate affects the cost of lending across the economy, through which the Fed hopes to cool the economy and put downward pressure on inflation – currently its top priority. If inflation persists, expect further increases in the benchmark interest rate.
This means that, unless some key narratives change, we should expect some challenging months ahead as the economy slows and we navigate what has become a bear market.
“However, there are some signs that the Fed’s actions are working,” said Raymond James Chief Investment Officer Larry Adam. “We’ve seen weakness in some of the data, particularly in housing and manufacturing, and economically sensitive commodities such as copper are declining. Bloated inventories are plaguing retailers, which is likely to lead to more discounting. An easing of price pressures is necessary to allow the Fed to be more patient and not raise rates as much as the market expects.”
There is other light in the gloom as well. Strong job growth, wage gains and abundant savings support consumer spending – approximately 70% of the U.S. gross domestic product. Even as consumer confidence has decreased and retail sales have recently signaled a slowdown, consumers have shown a willingness to spend on services like air travel and hospitality this summer. That’s a good sign. Still, uncertainty remains high, which means volatility will also remain high.
Performance reflects price returns as of market close on June 30, 2022. For the MSCI EAFE and Bloomberg Aggregate Bond indices, values reflect June 29 closing prices.
The recession question
Rising interest rates increase the possibility of a recession, but Raymond James Chief Economist Eugenio Alemán said it remains unlikely the U.S. economy will experience one in 2022. He projects, however, a 60% chance the economy will experience a very minor recession in the middle of next year.
World leaders attempt oil relief
Oil prices remain near eight-year highs at $120 per barrel as the European embargo and other restrictions against Russian oil are being felt across the global market, creating political pressure for policymakers to provide price relief. Major economies are urging OPEC nations to increase production, but the effect may be limited. The U.S. and other nations continue to release barrels from their emergency reserves to try to blunt the impact of diminished Russian exports. Meanwhile, countries such as Germany are subsidizing public transit as a way of reducing fuel demand.
A cornucopia of global difficulties
Outside the United States, the global economy is on course for weaker growth, persistent inflationary pressures – albeit to varying degrees in varying locations – and divergent approaches to monetary policy. In short, the world’s largest economies are suffering, but for different reasons: cost-of-living spikes in Europe, China’s “zero COVID” lockdowns, Japan’s weak yen, and dissipating exports prices for Latin American commodities.
Corporate bonds stand out
Yields on corporate debt had a strong month through June, giving income buyers another boost. Further, corporate BBB-rated, A-rated and high-yield 10-year spread indices were well above their five-year averages and wider for the month. In Treasuries, as the Fed continues to tighten monetary policy, it’s likely that the yield curve will continue to flatten.
The bottom line
June was a tale of too many headwinds. It’s not hard to imagine, however, that a change in one of the contributors to this environment – including the Russia-Ukraine war, inflation and central banks’ response to it or China’s lockdown policy – could offer an off-ramp from what otherwise promises to be a difficult, volatile period for the market. That said, periods of broad-market misery can provide opportunities for long-term investors to accumulate quality stocks.
Your financial advisor can help address questions about how current conditions may impact your holistic plan.
Investing involves risk, and investors may incur a profit or a loss. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the Raymond James Chief Investment Office and are subject to change. There is no assurance the trends mentioned will continue or that the forecasts discussed will be realized. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Economic and market conditions are subject to change. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is an unmanaged index of 30 widely held stocks. The NASDAQ Composite Index is an unmanaged index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ National Stock Market. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks. The MSCI EAFE (Europe, Australia, Far East) index is an unmanaged index that is generally considered representative of the international stock market. The Russell 2000 is an unmanaged index of small cap securities. The Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index is a broad-based flagship benchmark that measures the investment grade, U.S. dollar-denominated, fixed-rate taxable bond market. An investment cannot be made in these indexes. The performance mentioned does not include fees and charges which would reduce an investor’s returns. Small cap securities generally involve greater risks. International investing is subject to additional risks such as currency fluctuations, different financial accounting standards by country, and possible political and economic risks. These risks may be greater in emerging markets. Companies engaged in business related to a specific sector are subject to fierce competition and their products and services may be subject to rapid obsolescence. There are additional risks associated with investing in an individual sector, including limited diversification.