Following the weaker-than-expected October inflation report, stocks surged on hopes the Fed will “pivot” sooner than later. As we discussed recently, a “policy pivot” is not necessarily bullish but instead suggests more bearish market action will come first. To wit:
“Such leaves only two trajectories for monetary policy. The first option is for central banks to pause rates and allow inflation to run its course. Such would potentially lead to a softer landing in the economy but theoretically anchor inflation at higher levels. The second option, and the one chosen, is to hike rates until the economy slips into a deeper recession. Both trajectories are bad for equities. The latter is substantially riskier as it creates an economic or financial “event” with more severe outcomes.
While the U.S. economy has absorbed tighter financial conditions so far, it doesn’t mean it will continue to do so. History is pretty clear about the outcomes of higher rates, combined with a surging dollar and inflationary pressures.”
The “monetary policy conditions index” measures the 2-year Treasury rate, which impacts short-term loans; the 10-year rate, which affects longer-term loans; inflation which impacts the consumer; and the dollar, which impacts foreign consumption. Historically, when the index has reached higher levels, it has preceded economic downturns, recessions, and bear markets.
Not surprisingly, the tighter monetary policy conditions become, the slower economic growth tends to be.
The bullish expectation is that when the Fed finally makes a “policy pivot,” such will end the bear market. However, while that expectation is not wrong, it may not occur as quickly as the bulls expect.
Notably, the monetary policy conditions index suggests that more bearish action is likely before the next bull market cycle can begin.