Until something breaks. The old Wall Street adage is 3 hikes and a stumble. In his latest webcast this week, Jeff Gundlach, the current bond maven on Wall Street, made it clear that he expects the Federal Reserve to begin a campaign of sequential interest rate hikes until “something breaks”. In Cashin’s Comments this week, Arthur notes that David Rosenberg’s (Gluskin Sheff) research shows that since World War II, the Fed has embarked on 13 tightening cycles. Ten of those cycles led to recessions. While we do not see a recession on the horizon we do believe the Fed is behind the curve and may need to hike more aggressively than they would like. That will create imbalances throughout the system much like the sequential rates hikes in 1982, 1987, 1990, 1997 and 2007. The crises ranged from the Latin American debt crisis in 1982 to the S&L crisis in 1990 to the subprime debt crisis of 2007.
The question remains, will history prove right or are things different this time? I always hesitate to say “things are different this time” because that is always the death knell. It’s like when Jim Nantz says, “this kicker hasn’t missed an extra point all season” and the kicker then goes on to botch the critical extra point. The reality is that the Fed may be so far behind the curve that this rate hike, the third of this cycle or even the fourth rate hike doesn’t affect the market but sooner or later the Fed will hike and something will break. They are academics and they never anticipate change. It’s like driving using the rear view mirror (h/t BR). The data is from the past and doesn’t show what is happening now. They will hike until something breaks. If they do not raise rates next week the animal spirits in the market may take equity valuations even higher. The Fed is boxed in.
Valuations are quite extended and perhaps rate hikes will bring things gently back to earth. Much is being made of the idea that there seems to be a global upturn in economies. The global upturn and Trump’s policies could provide more cover for the Fed to raise rates to try and cool valuations off. You have to remember that they are not the only central bank adding fuel to the fire. Japan, China and Europe are all doing the same. We see some cracks in the foundation as High Yield and small cap stocks lagged this week. It is no surprise that high yield struggled as West Texas Crude dropped 9% on the week to finish under the psychological $50 mark.
Momentum is very powerful and still in the hands of the bulls. Lots of positives out there but things are priced for perfection. Keep an eye on crude next week. Lower crude could continue to pressure high yield. High yield and oil could be the canary in the coalmine.
I think we aspire less to foresee the future and more to be a great contingency planner… you can respond very fast to what’s happening because you thought through all the possibilities, – Lloyd Blankfein
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A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill
Disclosure: This blog is informational and is not a recommendation to buy or sell anything. If you are thinking about investing consider the risk. Everyone’s financial situation is different. Consult your financial advisor.