If the goal was to break the economy, they've succeeded... Yet the plan is still "full steam ahead."
In March, the U.S. banking system hit the worst rough patch we've seen since the global financial crisis. We saw three of the four largest bank failures in our country's history... And those three banks totaled half a trillion dollars in assets when they went under.
The blowups were as orderly as one could ever hope. The overall economy seems to be rolling along. But even so, the regional-banking sector is still in disarray.
When the Federal Reserve began aggressively hiking rates last year, the goal was to cool inflation (and the economy). The agency has now hiked rates twice since the banking crisis began, including its hike from last week.
It's hard to describe that as anything other than lunacy. The banking blowup has remained headline news for weeks. But the Fed still hasn't given up on its mission.
That won't last forever, though. In fact, when we take a hard look at the data, there's a strong chance the rate-hiking cycle is over.
Let me explain...
From the start of its efforts, the Fed has said its interest-rate decisions would be "data dependent."
That statement is logical enough. These are purely economic decisions, not emotional ones. So making choices – and waiting to change policy – based on the best possible data makes sense.
But it also begs the question... what data, exactly?
The Fed's initial pitch was that the economy was running hot... which had led to historic inflation. We needed to slow that down. So the Fed raised rates from 0% to 5% in a little more than a year.
And guess what... it worked. Today, inflation has crashed.
The most recent data shows year-over-year inflation growth at just 5%, nearly cut in half from last year's high. And if you take the last six months and annualize the data, inflation is just 3.6%.
In short, the Fed has tamed the dragon.
We've also seen a slowdown in the employment market. Unemployment hasn't substantially ticked higher. But the number of job openings is down roughly 2.5 million from last year's peak. Take a look...
The raging hot job market of 2021 is calming down. It's another sign that rate hikes are working to cool down the economy. And with that slowdown in place, this trend is almost certain to continue.
Inflation and employment are doing what the Fed wants them to do. And while we did get a rate hike last week, that announcement contained one more subtle hint that it could be the last...
When discussing the end of rate hikes, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said, "We're getting close or maybe even there." And the committee left out the typical language from its statement that it anticipates further rate hikes.
This is no guarantee that hikes are over. But to me, the data is clear... The job is done. It's time to stop. And that's what I expect we'll see from here.
That's a major positive shift for the financial markets as a whole. Tomorrow, I'll tell you what it means for stocks...
"So far, the markets are behaving like a Fed pause is coming," Corey McLaughlin writes. We've also seen more signs of a slowing economy. Consumers are spending less and less money. And the Fed is watching... Read more here.
"Temporary interest-rate spikes can give us an opportunity to collect more income from cash," Dr. David Eifrig says. We're in one of those times right now. Yields have soared – and that's great news for income investors... Learn more here.
HIGHS AND LOWS
NEW HIGHS OF NOTE LAST WEEK
Microsoft (MSFT)... tech giant
Nvidia (NVDA)... graphics processing units
Uber Technologies (UBER)... ride-hailing giant
Shopify (SHOP)... e-commerce "picks and shovels"
Intuitive Surgical (ISRG)... medical technology
PepsiCo (PEP)... snacks and soft drinks
Molson Coors Beverage (TAP)... beer
Shake Shack (SHAK)... "addictive" fast food
DraftKings (DKNG)... sports-betting leader
Madison Square Garden Sports (MSGS)... pro sports teams
Ferrari (RACE)... luxury cars
Lennox (LII)... HVAC systems
Franco-Nevada (FNV)... gold royalties
Agnico Eagle Mines (AEM)... gold
NEW LOWS OF NOTE LAST WEEK
General Dynamics (GD)... "offense" contractor
L3Harris Technologies (LHX)... "offense" contractor
U.S. Bancorp (USB)... financial services
PNC Financial Services (PNC)... financial services
Truist Financial (TFC)... regional bank
Crown Castle (CCI)... communications REIT
Zscaler (ZS)... cloud security
CVS Health (CVS)... drugstores and vaccines
Macy's (M)... "death of malls"
Kohl's (KSS)... "death of malls"