Throughout 2023, the U.S. stock market experienced several micro-cycles. From January to July, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY), which tracks the performance of the S&P 500 index, advanced over 19% on a total return basis. However, in late October, nearly half that momentum had withered, with the Index briefly plunging into correction territory, indicating a 10% decline from July’s peaks.
The rising bond rate between late July and October contributed to the recent correction. The three-month period provided an adequate opportunity for investors to pivot away from stocks. Adding to the investors’ worries was Chair Jerome Powell’s comment: “The question of rate cuts just doesn’t come up.”
October witnessed the weakest performance in the S&P 500 since 2018 – its third successive month of contractions. This decline was perhaps predictable, considering the economic forecast concerns, stubborn inflation rate, prolonged apprehension over Federal Reserve policy rates, and geopolitical turmoil.
The financial picture brightened in November when stocks rallied robustly, nearly restoring the S&P 500 to its July peak. Making an impressive rebound in just 16 sessions, the S&P 500 effectively exited its correction phase, marking the swiftest turnaround since the 1970s.
As evidence of an overheated economy finally began to cool, investor tension eased, and the S&P 500 got a significant boost, surging by 8.5%. This surge brought its progress close to a 20% year-to-date increase, coinciding with the 10-year Treasury rates plunging below 4.5%.
Furthermore, another lower-than-expected inflation reading offers a flicker of hope that the contentious battle against inflation might soon abate.
As the Thanksgiving holiday curtails November’s U.S. trading week, investors are waiting to see if this resurgence in the stock market will endure until year’s end.
So, is the pathway clear?
While drawing definite conclusions could be too soon, let’s look at some promising indications suggesting the rally could persist until the close of the year…
After the Fed’s 20 months of stringent monetary policy tightening, it remains unclear to officials if the financial conditions are sufficiently restrictive to control inflation – a rate seen as surpassing the central bank’s 2% target.
Despite this uncertainty, the Fed maintains interest rates within the expected range of 5.25%-5.50%. Chairman Jerome Powell has not dismissed the possibility of further monetary tightening, leaving markets to ponder possible future actions of the Fed.
Forthcoming economic indicators will primarily guide decisions regarding future rate hikes. Depending upon inflation trends, there is potential for introducing interest rate cuts during the second quarter of 2024 or the following months.
If the Fed successfully facilitates a “soft landing” for the economy, implementing rate cuts while…
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