The financial cohort is in a difficult space as the broader economic backdrop continues to dictate whether these stocks can appreciate higher. A delicate balance between interest rates, Federal Reserve commentary, yield curve inversion, trade war, and concerns over a potential recession in late 2019 or early 2020 must be attained. A disruption in this complex web can lead to the financials breaking down as witnessed in Q4 2018 and in May of 2019. In Q4 2018 rates were increased by the Federal Reserve and sent the financials in a downward tailspin. In May 2019, a trifecta of a yield curve inversion, trade war concerns, and increased chatter about a potential recession on the horizon again sent the cohort lower. The broader market appreciated markedly in June, and the bank stocks participated in the rally. Coupled with renewed record share buybacks and increased dividend payouts stemming from successful stress tests, banks elevated higher on the news. Now, the market is anticipating that the Federal Reserve will cut rates at its next meeting, which may serve as another catalyst to propel some bank stocks to new 52-week highs.
The Q4 2018 Federal Reserve and Jerome Powell
The market-wide sell-off in the fourth quarter of 2018 was largely induced by the Federal Reserve and its alleged commitment to sequential interest rate increases into 2019. This was largely viewed as reckless and misguided while turning a blind eye to broader economic data-driven decision making about further interest rate hikes. The stock indices responded to the sequential interest rate hike stance with overwhelming negative sentiment, logging double-digit declines across the broader markets. Many market observers were questioning the Federal Reserve’s aggressive stance as companies issued weakness in ancillary economic metrics (slowing global growth, strong U.S. dollar, trade war, government shutdown, weak housing numbers, retail weakness, auto sluggishness, and oil decline) as an indication that cracks in the economic cycle were materializing. The strong labor market and record low unemployment served as a basis to rationalize increasing rates to tame inflation; however, these aforementioned economic headwinds appeared to cause the Federal Reserve to pivot in its aggressive stance. As Chairman Jerome Powell began to issue a softer stance on future interest rate hikes, January saw very healthy stock market gains after being decimated for months prior. On January 30th, Jerome Powell issued language that the markets were craving to levitate higher as he left interest rates unchanged and exercised caution and patience as a path forward. Using data-driven decision making as a path forward was cheered by market participants as the broader indices popped for healthy gains on top of the already robust gains throughout January. Continue reading "Financials: The Delicate Balance of Rates and Yield Curve"