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Wall Street Rallies on Fed Rate Cut Hopes: A Market Rejuvenation


Benjamin Hughes

May 3, 2024 - 20:26 pm


Market Rally Ignited by Prospects of Federal Reserve Rate Cuts

In a significant shift of events, stock markets have recorded their most substantial gains since February, spurred by a deceleration in US job growth which precipitated a marked drop in bond yields. This development reignites speculative optimism that the Federal Reserve may implement rate reductions within the current calendar year.

Investor concerns regarding stagflation—a combination of stagnation and inflation—or a looming recession were allayed as April's employment figures depicted a slowing, yet resilient labor market. This slowdown in job creation, coupled with a moderate wage growth, provided substantial grounds for the market to anticipate a more lenient policy approach from the Federal Reserve. Speculation is now rife that the policy-setting body could commence easing measures as soon as September.

Bullish Sentiment Returns to Wall Street

Jose Torres of Interactive Brokers encapsulated the sentiment of the market, stating, "The payroll miss hands the baton to the bulls." His reflection on the aggressive market rally underscores the re-energized confidence amongst traders, buoyed by indicators suggesting a less arduous path across the monetary policy landscape.

The S&P 500 soared 1.3%, with technology stocks leading the charge. The effervescent mood was particularly pronounced following Apple Inc.'s post-earning leap. The Nasdaq 100 exhibited a 2% uptick, while the VIX, commonly referred to as Wall Street's "fear gauge," dipped to its lowest in over a month, reflective of the renewed investor optimism.

The Shift in Economic Data: Rate Cuts Predicted

Recent wobbles in various economic readings – ranging from employment to service and manufacturing indices – have redirected attention to the narrative that translates 'bad news to good news' for the markets. In an illustrative turn of fortunes, the U.S. version of Citigroup's Economic Surprise Index, a barometer of actual versus expected data releases, plummeted to its lowest since February 2023, fueling predictions for future rate cuts.

The literal manifestation of this was the advance of nonfarm payrolls which, at 175,000 in April, marked the most modest surge in half a year. Concurrently, the unemployment rate saw a marginal hike to 3.9%, and wage gains decelerated. This ensemble of statistics paints the picture of an economy exhibiting controlled cooling, rather than unbridled escalation in demand or inflation.

Fed's Position on Inflation and Employment Cooldown

In response to the mild employment report, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago's President Austan Goolsbee articulated a sense of comfort in the absence of an overheating economy. In a parallel statement, Governor Michelle Bowman acknowledged the likelihood of persisting inflation but maintained an expectation for eventual moderation, providing rates stay constant. Further bolstering this outlook was Fed Chair Jerome Powell's statement, discounting the possibility of a near-term rate hike.

Echoing Powell's reticence towards a hawkish stance, Krishna Guha from Evercore interpreted the employment report as vindication for the Fed's decision-making thus far, suggesting a confidence boost in the prospect of rate cuts commencing by September.

Markets and Fed: Converging Expectations?

Seema Shah at Principal Asset Management drew attention to the rekindling of the rate-cut discussion insinuated by the latest jobs report. Powell's leaning towards a dovish position may well have been informed by such labor market insights, painting the Fed's moderated response in a strategic light.

"This is the jobs report the Fed would have scripted," Shah stated, indicating that a consistent trend of slower job growth may be necessary for the Fed to consider multiple rate cuts. Yet, a looming concern is whether a decelerating economy might replace inflation as the central fear.

Signals of a Cooling Economy

Separately released data highlighted an unforeseen contraction in the U.S. services sector for April, the first since 2022. This downturn was accompanied by a plummet in business activity to its lowest in four years, even as input costs surged, providing an additional layer of complexity to economic projections.

Gennadiy Goldberg of TD Securities opined that the balanced employment report offers a reprieve to Fed officials, fostering a belief in easing rates by the September Federal Open Market Committee meeting. Such is the allure of a gradually normalizing market—a job growth settling back to trend levels amidst a stabilization in wage growth.

Persistent Inflation and Market Movements

The April employment report dispelled certain overheating anxieties as per Mark Hamrick from Bankrate. However, he cautioned that data convergence is a prerequisite for the Fed to comfortably act upon easing borrowing costs. The vigilant stand against high inflation remains unrelenting.

Previously, equity markets endured a retreat as the Federal Reserve signaled prolonged high-interest rates against a backdrop of persistent inflation. This, coupled with a sharp deceleration in first quarter economic growth, sparked conversations around stagflation. However, experts, including Alexandra Wilson-Elizondo at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, suggest the latest jobs report could deflate fears of a hawkish market environment and stagflation.

Labor Market Dynamics and Fed Policy

While this recent cooling of the labor market has been acknowledged, experts like Tiffany Wilding at Pacific Investment Management Co. don't believe it's sufficient to trigger any immediate policy shifts from the Fed.

Despite stronger hiring, low unemployment, and the potential for wage gains, the baseline scenario forecasts at least one Fed rate adjustment within the year. June's Summary of Economic Projections could see alterations from the Fed's forecasts established in March, which previously entertained the idea of three cuts in 2024.

Larry Tentarelli at Blue Chip Daily Trend Report emphasizes the Fed's reliance on upcoming data in calibrating its next moves, suggesting a rate cut might materialize in September if inflation and jobs data align with expectations.

Perspectives on a Fluctuating Market

Chris Zaccarelli from the Independent Advisor Alliance surmises that, provided the Fed sustains or slightly reduces rates, the market possesses the impetus to advance further. These predictions resonate across commentary from market analysts, who variously highlight the reports as indicative of possible easing inflation pressures, the potential onset of rate cuts, and grounds for a bullish market revival.

Market participants range in their convictions from the labor market signifying a gentle deceleration to others espousing the need for a deeper analysis of the wage growth slowdown. Consensus emerges around the understanding that while a solitary report may not redefine the Fed's immediate intentions, a consistent trend of such data could incrementally shape monetary policies favoring rate reductions.

Corporate and Market Highlights

Apple Inc. delivered a report that exceeded sales expectations for the previous quarter and a forecast signaling growth resumption, igniting market optimism that the slump might be attenuating. Moreover, Apple's announcement of the largest stock buyback in U.S. history buoyed investor confidence.

Parallel narratives of positivity came from Amgen Inc., whose CEO reveled in the promise of their MariTide obesity treatment. Across the sea, Societe Generale SA trumpeted a stellar performance from their equity traders, assisting the French bank in eclipsing profit estimates for the first quarter. In contrast, Booking Holdings Inc., speculated reduced reservations in the light of Middle East tensions affecting tourism.

Market Movements: A Broad Overview

Undoubtedly, the publicized employment data had a substantial influence on market dynamics. The S&P 500, Nasdaq 100, and Dow Jones Industrial Average all enjoyed rises. This enthusiasm spread across global markets, evidenced by the MSCI World index also ascending.

Currency markets responded, characterized by a dip in the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index and gains for the euro, British pound, and Japanese yen against the dollar. Crypto-assets Bitcoin and Ether experienced significant upsurges.

Bond yields, a major indicator of market sentiments, witnessed declines in the US, Germany, and Britain. This could signify a market recalibrating its expectations with respect to future rate cuts.

In the commodities domain, West Texas Intermediate crude saw a price drop, while spot gold experienced a negligible dip, suggesting a diverse impact arising from the latest job report data.

Apple's earnings report has been pivotal this week, enhancing optimism given the surge in the company's stock after a pronounced growth. This earnings report, coupled with the prevailing economic news, suggests rising confidence in the markets as the Federal Reserve signals a shift towards a more accommodating stance.

Link to Apple's newsroom for the latest updates and earnings insights: Apple Newsroom

In conclusion, a panoramic view of recent economic indicators, corporate news, and market movements depicts an intricate tapestry of opportunities and challenges. As the US Federal Reserve navigates this complex scenario, the prospect of rate cuts has come to the forefront, energizing markets and adding a fresh wave of optimism for investors. Markets will closely track future developments, especially inflation data, for confirmation of this potential monetary policy pivot.