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The Eye of the Storm: The Fed, Inflation, and the Ides of October

The attention of a hurricane is a deceivingly perilous place. These fortunate sufficient to enter it unscathed could take pleasure in a well-deserved respite, however the blue skies and calm winds additionally create a false sense of safety and encourage complacency. Some folks could even be satisfied that the storm has handed. The reality, nonetheless, is that the attention affords solely a quick intermission, and the worst is but to come back.

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The US Federal Reserve raised the federal funds fee by 75 foundation factors on 27 July 2022. Many buyers had feared a extra aggressive 100-basis-point enhance, so the aid was palpable. The very subsequent day, the Bureau of Financial Evaluation (BEA) issued its superior estimate of second quarter GDP development. The damaging Q2 studying of 0.9% adopted a Q1 decline of 1.6% and prompted a useless debate as as to if the US economic system was in recession.

The mixture of a less-than-feared rate of interest hike and two consecutive quarters of damaging financial development sparked a powerful rally in US equities and different threat belongings. Implicit on this rally was the hope that the Fed could quickly ease its financial tightening and that the much-dreaded recession was already within the rearview mirror.

12-Month Trailing US Inflation and Cumulative Federal Charge Hikes: Submit-World Struggle I/Nice Influenza and Submit-COVID-19

Chart showing 12-Month Trailing US Inflation and Cumulative Federal Rate Hike: Post-World War I/Great Influenza and Post-COVID-19
Sources: Federal Reserve Financial institution of Minneapolis, US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Certainly, as July gave technique to August, a surprisingly robust jobs report and lower-than-expected CPI numbers made buyers much more bullish. One can hardly blame them for basking within the sunny skies and dropping sight of the second hurricane wall that probably looms on the horizon. Whereas such optimism could also be tempting, it’s inconsistent with the teachings of economic historical past — particularly the US expertise within the years after World Struggle I and the years previous the Nice Inflation.

The Fed is now battling inflation, not a recession, and it’s too early to declare victory. The best blunder in Fed historical past was letting inflation fester for too lengthy within the late Sixties. The Fed’s errors allowed inflation expectations to grow to be entrenched, and the US economic system paid a steep worth within the type of greater than a decade of stagflation. The Fed below Jerome Powell is unlikely to repeat this error, and taming inflation decisively will probably require extra ache.

Tile for Puzzles of Inflation, Money, and Debt: Applying the Fiscal Theory of the Price Level

Beware the Ides of October

So when will the second wall of the financial hurricane hit? It’s unattainable to inform. The Fed could even defy the chances and orchestrate a gentle touchdown. But when the storm comes, beware the Ides of October 2022. Not solely will the Fed’s tightening cycle be in its late phases, however October is a infamous month for monetary panics. The Nineteenth-century agricultural financing cycle first gave rise to periodic October panics, however even after the US transitioned to an industrial and shopper economic system, the instinctive concern of October produced the occasional self-fulfilling prophecy.

Monetary historical past means that extra market volatility and financial ache are on faucet earlier than the Fed wins its battle with inflation. This doesn’t imply, nonetheless, that buyers ought to embrace tactical asset allocation — that might be hypothesis relatively than funding. Quite, they have to merely preserve their situational consciousness, stay dedicated to their long-term asset allocation targets, rebalance to these targets as applicable, and proceed to metal their nerves for extra volatility and worth declines to come back.

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All posts are the opinion of the creator. As such, they shouldn’t be construed as funding recommendation, nor do the opinions expressed essentially mirror the views of CFA Institute or the creator’s employer.

Picture credit score: ©Getty Pictures/Stocktrek Pictures

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Mark J. Higgins, CFA, CFP

Mark J. Higgins, CFA, CFP is a seasoned funding adviser with greater than a dozen years of expertise serving massive institutional buyers, reminiscent of endowments, foundations, public pension plans, and company working reserves. He’s additionally an avid monetary historian and is publishing a guide on the total historical past of the US monetary system in early 2023 with Greenleaf Ebook Group. Higgins obtained a grasp’s of enterprise administration from the Darden Faculty of Enterprise and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown College with bachelors’ of arts levels in English and psychology. He’s additionally a CFA charterholder and CFP skilled.


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