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On February 1st, the Federal Reserve (Fed) announced a widely-expected 25bps rate hike. This was the rallying cry for the current market rally to continue.

Is this confidence warranted? An interesting note is that the FOMC meeting minutes and the associated press conference appeared contradictory in nature because there was not a straightforward hawkish or dovish narrative across both. The statement was hawkish. Meanwhile, Fed Chairman Powell’s language in the press conference was remarkably dovish, describing the disinflation process as having started and as "encouraging and gratifying". This was the point that markets took as the signal to continue the recent rally. Precious metals, equities, and risk assets have all seen significant post-meeting relief.

The first innings of a recession always appear to be somewhat of a soft landing in which inflation and growth begin to slow gradually. Yesterday’s meeting echoed the idea that recent indicators point to a modest increase in spending and that inflation has eased, precisely what the first innings of a recession would predict. As markets, potentially shortsightedly, adopt the soft landing narrative, the Fed’s lack of pushback against easier financial conditions added fuel to the fire. Given this, it is doubtful that markets will stop rallying until one of two cases occurs: First, if data comes in hot, it potentially frightens markets into thinking the Fed will turn back hawkish and raise rates more than the recently observed 25bps hike. The second scenario is the other extreme. Should data start coming in highly recessionary with lower inflation and weak growth, this will eliminate all believers in the soft landing narrative, thus halting the rally. However, at present, it looks like the market rally of 2023 could continue until either of these scenarios happen. An important thing to note is that whenever inflation has exceeded 5% in the past, it has never come back down without the Federal Funds Rate exceeding the rate of CPI inflation. Considering the Federal Funds Rate is currently between 4.5% and 4.75% whilst CPI inflation is at 6.5%, more rate hikes are on the horizon unless data comes in highly recessionary. CPI data on the 14th of February will provide significant insight into whether or not the Fed will follow the likes of the European Central Bank & Bank of England and go with a 50bps hike rather than a 25bps hike.

Another important thing to note is that Apple, Amazon, and Alphabet (the parent company of Google) all missed earnings last night. If three of the world's largest companies missed earnings, it does not breed confidence for economic hopes of avoiding a recession. One thing seems certain, the S&P500 is likely to take a hit when the NYSE opens later today.


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