What anxiety of a 50-basis point Fed rate hike tells regarding forthcoming stock market volatility

  • Fears of a more aggressive hawkish cycle and a possible 50-basis point rate rise as soon as March was stoked by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s description of the current economy as “quite different” from the Fed’s last time raised rates.
  • In contrast, many Federal Reserve presidents sent a “go slow” message this week, and one of them said that a 50-basis point rate rise is not their first choice.
  • At some time in 2022, the Federal Reserve may surprise the market with more aggressive action, and equities are likely to stay volatile as a result.

When asked whether a 50-basis point rate hike was on the table at his post-FOMC meeting press conference a few weeks ago, Fed Chair Jerome Powell did what a Fed chair is supposed to do: he didn’t rule it out but instead stuck to his more general talking points, which are more hawkish, about how the economy is stronger than it was the last period the Fed started a tightening process.

The fact that this is a different circumstance is appreciated. Please look back at where we were in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, when we hiked interest rates. Inflation was extremely near to, if not below, the 2 percent target.

Unemployment did not correspond to our estimations of the natural rate of unemployment. Moreover, growth was in the 2 to 3 percent area, as you may have guessed. 

Currently, inflation is running much higher than 2 percent, and it is doing so for a longer period than we would want.

Even with estimates, we have grown; even with a somewhat lower forecast for 2022, we still see the growth that is more than, and in some cases much higher than, the potential growth rate that we anticipate.

In addition, we are seeing a labor market that is historically tight by a variety of indicators. Our response to your particular inquiry has not been completed, and we have not answered those questions. And we’ll start addressing them as soon as the March meeting and subsequent ones come around.”

Powell created a report regarding how different the economizing is this time around at least five times during his press conference, and it was so much on his mind that his final respect to the power of the economy was a reminder to his public regarding how many times he had stated something to that impact during the press meeting.

Since the end of World War II, when the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates, stock returns have been modest, but not necessarily negative, and the stock market has performed well in the months leading up to a Fed rate rise, with more pressure on equities arriving after the hikes begin.

This year, however, has not gone according to plan, beginning with a disastrous January. Despite a recent rally in the S& P 500, the index is still down more than 5 percent year to date, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down almost 3.5 percent as of Friday morning.

For investors previously qualified for a central bank at the future of easing years, the possibility of a 50-basis particular Fed rate stroll, coupled with a Wall Street rushing into more awkwardness itself, with Bank of America currently expecting seven rate strolls this year, has unsettled the market and introduced greater Volatility to the market. But, historically, has the dread of a 50-basis point rate rise in March ever been based on fact?

The dispute is not restricted to only the United States. To combat inflation, the Bank of England voted 5-4 to raise interest rates by 25 basis points last week; four members voted in support of a rate hike of 50 basis points.

The chances of a 50 basis energy rate hike at the beginning of a new Fed pulling cycle have moved around a lot newly, nearly doubling in recent weeks before falling back to earth when several Fed presidents, including those who are more hawkish and more attuned to inflation than their peers on the FOMC, spoke last week about moving gradually even if they did not rule out a policy move prematurely at the same time.

During a speech to the Economic Club of Indiana, Kansas City Fed President Esther George said that “ideally, you always want to proceed gently.”

Earlier this week, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic said in an interview with the Financial Times that if the data indicate that a 50 basis point move is required or [would] be appropriate, he would “lean into that.” “If moving in successive meetings makes sense, I’ll be comfortable with that,” Bostic said in an interview with the Financial Times.

“That’s not my preferred setting [or] policy action for the next meeting,” Bostic said in an interview with Yahoo Finance about a 50-basis point rise in March.

Following the strong employment report released on Friday, which bucked negative predictions about the effect of omicron on hiring, the chances of winning the lottery increased once again. 

As a result, the Fed has stated that each successive wave of Covid has less influence on the economy than the last.

The current rate hike history

However, recent Fed history suggests that if the Fed raises interest rates by 50 basis points, it will not be the first step in a hiking cycle. The rate hike of 50 basis points in May 2000 occurred after five bumps of 25 basis points between June 1999 and March 2000, and it was the final rate increase of the cycle, marking the end of the cycle.

The adjustments of 50 and 75 basis points in 1994 – 1995 (in May, August, November, and February) followed three bumps of 25 basis points in the previous year (February, March, and April 1994).

According to an assessment of the changes conducted by DataTrek Research, these greater moves signaled the conclusion of monetary policy tightening, just as they did during the 1999–2000 rate rise cycle.

DataTrek Research’s Colas highlighted in recent research that “history shows that the Fed reserves 50 basis point increases (or more) for the middle to end of a tightening cycle, but recall that Chair Powell has expressly stated that the present situation is different from the past.”

“While futures markets are pricing in a modest probability of a 50 basis point rate rise in March, this may readily alter if new data reveals that inflation is continuing to accelerate.”

The disconnect, according to John Ryding, chief economic advisor at Brean Capital, between the logical case for a 50-basis point hike and true understanding of how this Fed acts, starting with the principle that the sooner and more aggressively it acts in the short run, the less they will have to do in the long run, says Ryding.

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This concept was formerly a well-established notion of the central bank, which former Fed vice chairman Alan Blinder referred to as “a stitch in time” mentality in his tenure as vice-chairman.

In the 1990s, Blinder advised that the Federal Reserve should intervene in anticipation of economic situations rather than using the Bunker Hill method of “waiting until you see the whites of their eyes,” which was doomed to failure in the long run.

The moment you see the whites of their eyes, they’ve already shot you in the chest. “You strive to save nine lives by knitting them together in time,” Blinder stated in a lecture in 1995.

On the other hand, Ryding believes that if the Federal Reserve were more serious about attempting to get ahead of inflation than the market already assumed, it would have hiked interest rates by now.

Not only did the Fed pass up the opportunity to raise rates in January, which was widely anticipated and which a majority of respondents to CNBC’s Fed Survey believed would have been the correct move given how far behind the Fed is on inflation, but the Fed is still buying bonds in February, “amounting to $30 billion,” according to Ryding, “despite everything it already knows about the economic situation.”

“If the Fed is still unwilling to acknowledge that it is time to stop adding to the balance sheet, it doesn’t sound like a Fed that is prepared to raise rates by 50 basis points,” he added.

Did the stock market become hawkish?

It is possible that the recent Volatility in stocks, as well as the significant rebound in the stock market last week, which was fueled by strong earnings from some of the largest technology companies, is a reflection of Wall Street potentially going too far to the other side of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy spectrum, becoming too hawkish, as evidenced by the Bank of America’s call for seven rate hikes, and resulting in too much near-term bearishness in the stock market.

There was a valid rationale for the market’s response to the Fed’s aggressive stance on interest rates. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) indicated that there would be no rate rises in 2022 in September. Only one participant predicted that there would be no rate rise by the end of the year, while the median prediction was three. Change is happening at a breakneck pace.

Likewise, Powell’s non-answer on a possible 50-basis-point rate rise says little more than that the process must be completed among the Fed’s policymakers. 

Powell can’t declare, “No, we will not make 50 basis points” unless he knows that every committee member is of the same view. It is not an easy task. “As a result, he must respect the process,” Ryding said.

It’s worth noting, though, that the fact that numerous senior Fed officials seemed to minimize a 50-basis point raise last week is not necessarily a strong signal, much alone language that Ryding would characterize as “stepping back.”

The Federal Reserve prepares the markets for the bad news. At this stage, the market is already prepared for the thought that the central bank is leaning toward doing more rather than less to keep inflation under control, according to the Federal Reserve.

The bank would never rule out a certain policy action ahead of time and rely on evidence to make that decision. And even if it ends up doing less, it would not be a shift; it would still feel the need to prepare the market in advance of the change.

To catch up, market players tend to jump from one side of the boat to another, which pulls the market along with them, as we saw.

“I assure you that if there is even a remote possibility of the Fed raising interest rates by 50 basis points, we will all be unanimous in our belief,” Ryding added.

The Federal Reserve has other alternatives as well. With too much cash that it doesn’t know what to do with, the financial market has been handing it back to the Federal Reserve via the reverse repo market, and it has $1.5 trillion in bank reserves that are more than the banks need.

All of this liquidity must be absorbed, and there are several modifications to be made to the balance sheet, so the unwinding of the balance sheet will not proceed at the same “glacial” pace as it did the last time.

“That will not be the case this time,” Ryding said, echoing the Fed’s view, which has been made apparent even if specifics are still lacking.

The DNA of this Fed

The market’s fluctuating perspective on a 50 basis point rise in March may continue to vary, but being excessively negative in the near term does not imply that the market is not underestimating the amount of monetary restriction required to control inflation long run.

It is possible that even if the Fed decides to continue with a 25-basis point rate rise in March, it will return in May with a far better understanding of the state of the economy and with the option of proceeding with an additional 50% rate hike if it deems this to be necessary.

According to Ryding, based on what we have seen and heard from the Fed so far, it is far more probable that if they are willing to raise interest rates over 25 basis points at any time, it will not be until May.

50 is simply out of character for this Fed, in my opinion, and they have other plans,” Ryding said. The change, in my opinion, is not about doing more than planned in the March meeting. It consists of filling in the blanks on the balance sheet with more specific information.”

As for this year, Ryding expects four rate rises, and if he had to pick between three and five, he would tilt toward five based on his inflation projection. And he believes that the Fed will ultimately turn more hawkish, but not at this time.

According to Yellen, it is not in the DNA of this Fed to jump out of the gate with a 50-basis-point rate rise. And until there is more recognition of the upside risk to inflation as becoming a reality in the Fed forecast, rather than the “base case,” Powell said after the last FOMC meeting, the policy would not get tighter than expected. 

Although the Fed chair describes the risk as tilted to the upside, Powell said the policy would not get tighter than expected.

“Eventually, I believe the Federal Reserve will be forced to do more than the market anticipates, but not in the short term,” Ryding said.

When the VIX reached 40 just before the stock market’s bounce last week, it indicated oversold stocks. Still, Volatility will continue to be a characteristic of the market in the future.

As one analyst put it, “Volatility must be a recurring theme because we’ve been spoon-fed for many, many years, for the better part of the last decade. We’ve never been startled, and the Fed has moved very slowly up until now, but it is now unsure what it will do.”

It’s either more currently or later for Powell.

Although a 50-basis-point rate rise in March may be too soon for this Fed, economic forecaster Joel Naroff believes that unless inflation continues to decrease at an alarming rate, the Fed may be forced to act more aggressively than anticipated at some time.

Businesses that have gained pricing power for the first time in decades are unlikely to relinquish it quickly, increasing the likelihood of a major misinterpretation of inflation in the future.

In his opinion, if the CPI and other inflation readings remain at their present levels, the Fed should demonstrate that it is on top of the situation by raising interest rates by 50 basis points, whether in March or June, as a starting point.

According to him, if the Fed follows through on its anticipation of a 25-basis point rate rise in March, it will only increase the likelihood that the 50-basis point rate hike would occur later in the year.

“I’ve been saying they need to do more than just say the economy is different and that we have a robust economy,” Naroff said, referring to Fed Chair Powell’s latest post-FOMC remarks, which were widely viewed as generally more hawkish than previous statements.

According to the chairman, the possibility for members who wish to earn more than 25 basis points to come out has been offered.

In Naroff’s opinion, raising the federal funds rate by 50 basis points is the best course of action to more rapidly address errors made by the Fed during the “transitory” inflation phase. “By merely increasing the margin by 50 basis points, they could remove all of the doubts,” he added.

If the Federal Reserve responded more quickly and decisively, they might have to raise interest rates less often overall.

I’m hoping at some time the Fed will do something that may be classed as an off-meeting,” Naroff said. “Everyone is under the impression that they have to attend every quarter,” Naroff added.

Because Powell said there is enough leeway to move without harming the economy, why should it take three years to reach 3 percent when the economy is robust and high inflation? According to him, “it is a message that the market should have heard a very long time ago.”

If the Fed raises rates by 100 basis points this year, it won’t be very meaningful to him whether it does so in 25-basis point increments or larger increments in the future.

“The point is that this isn’t the conclusion of the story.” The fact is, he (Pollock) was rather explicit about it,” Naroff added. “I simply believe that 50 basis points are a more compelling argument.”

The employment report released last Friday strengthens the notion that the next bout of inflation might drive the Fed into a more hawkish stance; nevertheless, the most recent statements from Fed presidents indicate that they are more united in their “go gently” stance for the time being.

However, after they make that initial move, “all bets are off, and they may go in whatever way they choose,” Naroff said. “

According to Grant Thornton Chief Economic Officer Diane Swonk, the bottom effect is higher Volatility, and equities have remained volatile in trading since then, whether they are rising or falling.

“The Federal Reserve has completed its shift from being patient to being frightened about inflation; its next action will be to hike interest rates. “Within a short period, it will aim to decrease its huge balance sheet to magnify changes in short-term interest rates and smooth the transition for the wider economy.

That sounds great in principle, but it has never been implemented in practice. As the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) considers how best to calibrate tightening, the argument inside the Fed will get more intense. Prepare yourself for dissents and the dissonance that this will cause in financial markets in the year ahead,” Swonk warned on his blog.

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