July Market Commentary: Will the Fed’s Rate Resolve Lead to Recession?

June Recap and July Outlook

After a barely positive May, June saw the bear market return across indices. We ended up with the worst first half performance since 1970. A mid-month surprise 75 basis point rate hike at the June FOMC meeting, followed by Fed Chairman Powell’s testimony to Congress in which he indicated aggressive rate increases at the July and September meetings, convinced markets that inflation is the priority for the Fed.

Chairman Powell indicated that the current level of inflation – a historic 8.6% – will require a short-term rate of at least 3% to get to a neutral level. With the Fed funds rate currently at 1.50%-1.75%, that means several more rate increases this year.

Are we headed for a recession? Are we already there? Or is the Fed’s plan to slow the economy and bring the labor markets into balance beginning to work?

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What’s the Fed Up To? Rates, Inversions, and Quantitative Tightening

The U.S. Treasury yield curve inverted last week. An inversion is when the shorter-term yield in a pair of U.S. Treasury maturities is higher than the longer-term yield, reversing or inverting the normal relationship. The significance of a yield curve inversion is that inversions have a history of predicting recessions.

The yield curve inverts because investors believe that the economy will slow in the future. The Fed attempts to control inflation by increasing interest rates, which makes business investment more expensive. Markets appear to think that the Fed will overshoot with rate increases, which will stifle rather than slow economic growth. The Fed will then have to begin decreasing rates again.

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