NEW YORK: A double dose of potentially market-moving US events this week could set the tone for asset prices in the rest of 2022 and beyond, as investors brace for a key inflation report followed by the last Federal Reserve (Fed) meeting of the year.
The S&P 500’s latest rebound stalled in the past week, as stronger-than-expected economic data fuelled concerns that the Fed will need to keep interest rates higher for longer in its bid to crush inflation, potentially bringing on a recession.
The index has bounced about 10% from its October lows but remains down more than 17% on the year.
Equities’ trajectory in the near future may depend on whether tomorrow’s consumer price index (CPI) report shows inflation is responding to the most aggressive Fed hiking cycle since the 1980s. Hotter-than-expected data could bolster fears of more Fed hawkishness, pressuring stocks.
“If CPI comes in north of expectations or even doesn’t decline at all, that is not going to be market-positive,” said Tom Hainlin, national investment strategist at US Bank Wealth Management.
CPI reports have been catalysts for outsized swings in markets this year, with the S&P 500 moving an average of around 3% in either direction over the past six CPI releases, compared with an average daily move of about 1.2% over the same period.,
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That includes a Sept 13 inflation release that sparked a 4.3% sell-off and a Nov 10 report showing softer-than-expected inflation that fuelled a 5.5% rise and helped stocks extend their latest rally. A second helping of benign data could bolster the case for a peak in inflation and buoy equities further.
“Typically around the CPI reports it has been pretty volatile this year, and I don’t see a reason to think it still won’t be that way when we get the data this week,” said David Lefkowitz, head of US equities at UBS Global Wealth Management.
Meanwhile, investors are factoring in a half-percentage-point rate hike from the Fed this week, a step down from its recent series of three-quarter-point increases.
With Wednesday’s rate action largely seen as a foregone conclusion, Wall Street will be focused on the central bank’s projections for how high rates will ultimately rise.
Also key will be Fed chairman Jerome Powell’s views on inflation and the possibility that the economy can slip into recession next year – an idea that has filtered into asset prices and dominated investor thinking lately.
One closely watched indicator can be seen in the US government bond market, where the Treasury yield curve recently inverted to its steepest level in at least 20 years, magnifying a signal that has preceded past economic downturns.
Hainlin, of US Bank Wealth Management, said he is concerned that pressure from higher rates on consumer and business spending has yet to be factored into investors’ earnings expectations.,