Financial and Economic News: September 20, 2023

economy financial news Sep 20, 2023
Financial and Economic News: September 19, 2023

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 Government Shutdown

First up, this week started with a proposal from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to avert a government shutdown by implementing an 8% reduction in spending for domestic agencies. And while we can all agree that avoiding a shutdown is an urgent matter, this type of cut wouldn’t be without significant effects to various sectors of the economy. So, let’s unpack those. In particular, the proposed spending cuts could directly impact critical areas such as healthcare, law enforcement, and public safety.

It’s also important to keep in mind that McCarthy's contentious proposal could introduce uncertainty into financial markets. Here’s why: Investors tend to favor stability and predictability, and it’s my guess that this budgetary dispute might lead to some hesitancy in the financial markets and could even affect stock prices. Remember, investor confidence is a crucial driver of economic growth. So on the business side of things, you might see business owners delay investments or expansion plans. As for consumers, they’ll likely pull back and become more cautious, which also yields implications for overall economic activity. 

Ultimately, McCarthy's proposal underscores the broader challenge of reconciling fiscal responsibility with the need to maintain vital public services and programs. Striking the right balance between budgetary restraint and ensuring the well-being of citizens and the stability of the economy is not an easy task. And in this context, political stability and effective governance are essential for preserving economic growth, investor confidence, and overall economic well-being.


The Fed’s New Conundrum

And keeping in the realm of economics, the Fed is currently facing a challenge of its own. That’s because, despite raising interest rates, the U.S. economy is not slowing down as fast as they expected. Remember, traditionally, central banks like the Fed have raised interest rates to reduce consumer spending and control inflation. In other words, their focus is on managing demand. Only, they haven’t successfully done that this time around. It’s not an unsolvable problem, but how the Fed responds will impact not only consumer behavior but also the broader availability of goods and services.

We know that interest rate hikes can discourage businesses from taking risks and being innovative, which can slow down the production of goods and services, a concern echoed this week by Fed head, Jerome Powell. The latest details on their strategy is to do what they can to moderate demand while allowing the supply side to adapt.

So, what can we expect once that happens? Well, don’t expect to see immediate changes in interest rates. The Fed aims to implement adjustment later this year, but for now, their decision hinges on factors like wage growth and price stability. Striking the right balance is crucial: too high interest rates could shrink the economy, while too low rates could spur further inflation.

In a nutshell, the Fed grapples with the challenge of managing inflation while maintaining economic vitality. And since interest rates influence both consumer behavior and the availability of goods and services, the Fed's aim is to find the right equilibrium for economic stability and prosperity.


Wall Street’s Year In Review 

Moving on to news from the markets, In the annual Wall Street review, financial experts are giving their predictions for the S&P 500 Index another look, admitting they didn't quite get this year's stock market rise right. That includes Manish Kabra from Societe Generale, who bumped up his year-end target from 3,800 to 4,750. Even more cautious analysts like Michael Kantrowitz from Piper Sandler & Co. and Greg Boutle from BNP Paribas recently raised their 2023 forecasts due to the market's impressive 15.9% growth.

But here's the twist: while they're fessing up to underestimating the stock market this year, they're not ready to declare it a full-blown bull market just yet. Kabra, for example, thinks the S&P 500 might dip to 3,800 by the middle of next year, possibly because of issues with consumer spending, which I mentioned earlier. Despite signs that the U.S. economy might avoid a recession, these experts are keeping a cautious stance. 

So, while some big names on Wall Street have adjusted their predictions to match the market's impressive performance, the overall mood remains cautious. The big question now is how long the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates high, assuming they're done raising them. Economists polled by Bloomberg think rates will stay around 5.25% to 5.5% at the next Fed meeting, with the first rate cut potentially pushed back to May, a later timeline than previously expected.

In a nutshell, Wall Street's experts are playing it safe after initially missing the mark. And if you’re listening/reading this, and you’re wondering what this means for you as an investor: this situation does offer some valuable insights for everyday investors. It reminds us that financial experts and their forecasts can sometimes miss the mark, emphasizing the importance of a diversified, long-term investment approach instead of knee-jerk reactions to short-term predictions. Moreover, the caution shown by these experts underscores the enduring significance of inflation and the Federal Reserve's actions. Staying informed about economic trends and central bank policies that can impact interest rates and your cost of living is crucial. Finally, it's wise to consider your financial goals, risk tolerance, and investment strategies in light of these market dynamics. Whether you're investing or managing your finances, seeking professional advice and maintaining a well-balanced approach aligned with your long-term objectives is often a smart move.


ECB Plans to Raise Borrowing Costs

Moving on to the latest in global economic news: Economist Nouriel Roubini is sending a clear message to the European Central Bank and the Bank of England, saying that continuous interest rate hikes are the need of the hour. He's sounding the alarm about the looming threat of "stagflation," where rising oil prices could lead to a dangerous mix of rising prices and sluggish economic growth.

Roubini’s recommendation was for a substantial increase in interest rates for the BOE, proposing a target rate of 5.75%—a significant jump from the current 5.25%. And this aligns with what we’re seeing as far as market expectations for another imminent rate hike. Now, despite stressing the importance of rate hikes, Roubini isn't blind to the potential risks, including the threat of financial instability.

Looking at the big picture though, Roubini argues that structural changes in the global economy, including aging populations and supply chain disruptions, are likely to keep inflation higher for longer. This could prompt central banks to rethink their inflation targets, possibly shifting to a range between 3% and 4%, up from the existing 2% target. His insights were echoed by members of the ECB, who said they were also committed to maintaining a 4% interest rate as a tool to combat inflation.

But let’s be clear: the ongoing debates and policy decisions about interest rates, inflation, and economic growth by major central banks like the ECB, BOE, and the Federal Reserve aren't just about their own countries' economies – they have a big impact on the global economic scene. These moves and discussions ripple through international trade, financial markets, how confident investors are feeling, and the overall stability of financial systems around the world. Plus, recognizing that things like aging populations and supply chain hiccups are changing the game suggests that global trade and how things are made will keep evolving.


Prepare for the Central Bank Marathon 

And last but not least, this week marks the start of a 36-hour central bank marathon involving 11 key players, from the Federal Reserve to the Bank of Japan. Despite the global concerns about inflation I mentioned earlier, markets are surprisingly confident when it comes to predicting monetary policies, inflation rates, and bond yields.

For context, in the US, bond market volatility has hit an 18-month low, creating a landscape of liquidity and favorable financial conditions. Investors are growing increasingly sure about what central banks will do next, with expectations that the Bank of England might inch ahead with slightly higher rates than the Federal Reserve.

But here's where things get interesting. Core inflation varies among major economies, raising the possibility of differing monetary policy responses. So, while China is grappling with potential deflation, the US is wrestling with core inflation, and the UK, Europe, and Japan are charting their own unique courses. Ultimately this divergence could have a notable impact on market volatility, asset values, and investment decisions.

This central bank marathon tackles the complexities of managing monetary policy in a world with diverse inflation and economic challenges. And while we might see some short-term fluctuations, a coordinated approach among central banks and the adaptability of the markets will ultimately help smooth out these challenges over time. We have to trust that they’re planning for the worst, but expecting the best as we head into the rest of this week.

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