Don’t Fight the Fed
You may have heard the old Wall Street saying, “Don’t fight the Fed.” It suggests that investors should align their strategy with the Federal Reserve’s outlook rather than try to outsmart the world’s most powerful banker.
In the past few months, the Fed has said it’s prepared to raise short-term interest rates in 2022. And so far this year, interest rates have been trending higher, which has been one of the factors contributing to the market volatility in the first few trading days.
The perception of a more hawkish Fed put a hard stop to the year’s positive start and pushed bond yields higher and stocks into a broad retreat.
Technology and other high-valuation shares were particularly hard hit by rising yields. Even the larger capitalization technology companies with strong cash flows and profits were damaged. As yields trend higher, investors are questioning if these companies can lead the market in 2022.
Fueling this decline was a four-day sell-off of technology companies by hedge funds that, in dollar terms, represented the highest level in more than ten years. Stocks continued to struggle into the final trading day, unsettled by a renewed climb in yields and an ambiguous employment report.1
Minutes of December’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting were released last week and it revealed a more hawkish Fed than investors had been expecting. One surprise was that the first hike in interest rates could occur as early as March. Another, and perhaps more consequential, surprise was the idea of beginning a “balance sheet runoff” by the Fed following the first hike in the federal funds rate.2
A balance sheet run-off means that maturing bonds won’t be replaced with new bonds, the result of which is a smaller Fed balance sheet. Many investors view this step as removing liquidity from the system, a departure from market expectations that the balance sheet would remain flat during the Fed’s pivot to monetary normalization.
When creating a portfolio, our professionals consider a wide range of factors, including the Fed’s outlook. The Fed may not always be correct, but we’ve found that understanding its overall strategy can only help when managing money
1. CNBC, January 6, 2022
2. The Wall Street Journal, January 5, 2022
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Dr. Jason Van Duyn
AQuest Wealth Strategies
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