Tired Stock Markets and Fed Fatigue


I'm tiredTired of playing the game Ain’t it a crying shame

-Lili Von Shtupp (Madeline Kahn) in “Blazing Saddles

One thing we can all agree on this political season is that everyone seems tired -- tired of the shouting, the rhetoric and the divisiveness. In some ways, the stock market also feels a bit tired right now, as investors continue to suffer from Fed fatigue. After enduring a correction early in the year, then charging to all-time highs over the summer, the rally seems to have lost some steam lately. Perhaps the slowdown is for good reason, at least from the consumer’s point of view: with the labor market tightening, US companies are paying higher wages, which eats into their profit margins and hurts stock performance. Most Americans would likely happily endure so-so mid-single digit returns from stocks in their retirement plans, in exchange for fatter paychecks.

Conversations about the Federal Reserve also seem a little wearing these days. The Fed’s impact on risk assets, like stocks, seems to wax and wane from week to week, with most now believing that the central bank will raise rates by a quarter of a percent at the mid-December meeting. By that time, investors will know the outcome of the election and will also have a bit more data to confirm that economic growth can withstand a Fed move. This week, the government will release one of the last few important reports before that meeting: third quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

After a dreadful first half of the year, when the economy expanded by just about one percent, growth has accelerated in the second half of this year, as the effects of a stronger dollar and lower oil prices have started to fade. Economists expect that the first estimate of third quarter growth will rebound to an annualized rate of 2.5 percent, due in large part to a surge in exports and specifically soybean exports. Depending on how the Bureau of Economic Analysis handles the spike and then likely reversal in the subsequent quarter could impact the headline. When it’s all smoothed out, we should expect that growth for all of 2016 will be the same, tired 2 percent or so that we have seen over the past few years.

In addition to GDP, which will be revised in a month, the Fed will also chew on the following before the December FOMC: two employment reports (11/6 and 12/4), two Personal Income and Spending reports, which contain the Fed’s favorite measure of inflation, PCE Index (10/31 and 11/30) and one more Consumer Price Index report (11/17). Presuming that these reports are mostly in line with trends, the Fed should hike in December. After that, I'm afraid to tell you that we're likely to endure another round of exhaustive speculation about the pace of rate hikes…in other words, be prepared for the 2017 version of Fed fatigue.

  • DJIA: 18,145, up 0.04% on week, up 4.1% YTD
  • S&P 500: 2141, up 0.4% on week, up 4.8% YTD
  • NASDAQ: 5257, up 0.8% on week, up 5% YTD
  • Russell 2000: 1218, up 0.5% on week, up 7.2% YTD
  • 10-Year Treasury yield: 1.74% (from 1.80% week ago)
  • British Pound/USD: 1.2227 (from 1.2188 week ago)
  • November Crude: $50.85, up 1% on week
  • December Gold: $1,267.70, up 1% on week
  • AAA Nat'l avg. for gallon of reg. gas: $2.23 (from $2.25 wk ago, $2.22 a year ago) Prices have climbed above their year-ago levels for the first time in over two years (7/13/14)


Mon 10/24:


8:30 Chicago Fed National Activity Index

Tues 10/25:

Apple, AT&T, General Motors, Pandora

9:00 FHFA House Price Index

9:00 S&P Case-Shiller HPI

10:00 Consumer Confidence

Weds 10/26:

Coca-Cola, Groupon, Texas Instruments

10:00 New Home Housing Sales

Thursday 10/27:

Amgen, Deutsche Bank, Ford, Sirius XM

8:30 Durable Goods

10:00 Pending Home Sales

Friday 10/28:

Exxon Mobil, Hershey, MasterCard

8:30 Q3 GDP – 1st Estimate

8:30 Employment Cost Index

10:00 Consumer Sentiment