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The Danger of a "Do Nothing Fed"

Updated: Jan 22

Today's financial markets experienced turbulence following the unexpectedly high December CPI figure, registering at 3.4%. This development casts doubt on the predictions of numerous analysts who foresaw the Federal Reserve beginning to reduce interest rates as early as March or June 2024. Despite some weaknesses, the economy maintains resilience, particularly in the service sector, which is a major economic driver.


Investor sentiment has been buoyed by the anticipation of the Fed's rate cuts, with expectations of at least four 0.25% reductions factored into the market's end-of-year rally. However, this optimism is precarious—if the Fed's actions don't align with these expectations, a significant market reassessment is inevitable.


The Fed is tightening monetary conditions
The Fed's tightening ofmonetary conditions by winding down the balance sheet. Source: Bloomberg

There are concerns regarding the Fed's intense focus on achieving a 2% inflation target. This narrow goal might lead to a prolonged period of restrictive monetary policy, potentially hindering the possibility of a gentle economic downturn ("soft landing") and instead steering the economy towards recession. Such a scenario would likely emerge from reduced consumer and business spending.


If this happens, market trends could shift negatively, potentially leading to a correction phase that only subsides when sufficient rate cuts are enacted to rejuvenate economic growth. This pattern of drastic Fed interventions—alternating between steep rate hikes and cuts—appears to be a recurring theme, shaping the economic landscape for the foreseeable future.


The Fed has a history of steep rate increases and cuts.
The Fed's pattern of steep hikes and cuts. Source: Bloomberg

This situation underscores the importance of cautious optimism and preparedness for potential shifts in monetary policy. Investors and market observers alike must remain vigilant, ready to adapt to the unpredictable dynamics of the Fed's actions and the broader economic environment.

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Unless otherwise indicated all performance is sourced from Bloomberg.

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