What Will the Fed Do Gradually? Weekly Update – March 23, 2015

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/hywards

Image courtesy of
FreeDigitalPhotos.net/hywards

Markets finally snapped their three-week losing streak and rebounded as investors bought the dip and rallied after a Fed meeting. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 2.66%, the Dow rose 2.13%, and the NASDAQ added 3.17%.1

The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee met last week and issued a statement that supports future interest rate hikes. Though rates won’t come up at the next meeting in April, a June hike is possible if the economic tea leaves show continued improvement.2

What could an interest rate hike mean for markets? While we can’t predict the future, we can look backwards to see what hints history can provide. Back in June 2013, then Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke started talking about the need to gradually trim back bond-buying operations. This “taper talk” led to a brief selloff of 5% as jittery investors started worrying about how the economic recovery would survive without the Fed’s easy money.3

What’s happened since then? The Fed started tapering (wrapping up in October 2014), the unemployment rate has continued to fall, and the economy continues to expand. Since the day in 2013 that Bernanke announced his tapering intentions, the S&P 500 has gained 29.41% and has reached multiple all-time highs along the way.4

Right now, investors are experiencing similar rate hike jitters as they adjust to the new reality of higher interest rates. While we don’t know how soon the Fed will start hiking rates, we do know that they’ll do it in a gradual way. Will interest rate hikes torpedo the economic recovery? No. Will they affect short-term market performance? Probably.

We can’t control market performance. All we can do is focus on your personal goals, keep an eye on the overall environment, and stay flexible and on the lookout for opportunities that arise.

As we approach the end of the quarter, we can expect more market volatility as investors weigh the effects of another cold winter on economic growth and corporate earnings. Analysts will also be waiting for Friday’s final estimate of fourth quarter 2014 economic growth as well as follow-up comments from Fed economists who might give further insight into the timing of rate hikes.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Existing Home Sales

Tuesday: Consumer Price Index, PMI Manufacturing Index Flash, New Home Sales

Wednesday: Durable Goods Orders, EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday: Jobless Claims

Friday: GDP, Consumer Sentiment

 

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HEADLINES:

Jobless claims hold steady. The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits edged up slightly to 291,000 last week. The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, increased to 304,750, dropping 7.5% over the last year.5

Foreclosures fall to lowest rate since 2006. The number of properties going into foreclosure fell in February to levels not seen since before the housing crisis. Since 2006 marked the peak of the housing bubble, the low in foreclosures may be an important milestone for the housing market.6

Homebuilder confidence dips in February. A measure of optimism among U.S. builders fell unexpectedly last month as construction firms worried about industry issues. However, builders are still broadly confident about housing market gains.7

Manufacturing growth slows. Though overall U.S. industrial production increased in February due to increased utility output during the cold winter, manufacturing gains have slowed over the last six months. A strong U.S. dollar may be contributing to falling overseas demand.8

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