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Navigating the Economic Crossroads: Fed’s 11th Rate Hike and Its Impact on Investments in 2023

Why America might have avoided a recession in lieu of a "soft landing" that's keeping our economy afloat.

Fred Taylor //August 14, 2023//

Navigating the Economic Crossroads: Fed’s 11th Rate Hike and Its Impact on Investments in 2023

Why America might have avoided a recession in lieu of a "soft landing" that's keeping our economy afloat.

Fred Taylor //August 14, 2023//

To no one’s surprise, the Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates again during their July meeting. This was their 11th increase since the spring of 2022. As expected, the Fed Funds rate went up 25 basis points, or a quarter of 1 percent. The new rate is 5.25%-5.50%.

What remains unclear is whether this is the last interest rate increase for the current tightening cycle. If inflation continues to come down to the Fed’s 2% target, then it probably is. However, we won’t know until the end of the year because Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will most likely keep his options open and the markets guessing. Rate decisions will be data-dependent, primarily on the monthly unemployment, PCE and CPI numbers. The great news is that inflation has improved from over 9% annually in the spring of 2022 to 3% today, so interest rate increases have worked to bring down inflation. 

As a result of this improvement in inflation, there is now a lot of discussion that we won’t have a recession in 2023 and Powell will have accomplished a “soft landing” that no one expected as recently as a few months ago.

READ: Finding the Silver Lining Amidst Rising Interest and Inflation Rates

So, what does this mean for investors investing in the stock and bond markets?

Stock Markets

The rally in the stock market in 2023 is reflecting a Goldilocks economy: not too hot, and not too cold. This rally began in earnest right after chip maker Nvidia released their blockbuster earnings report in May. This ignited a massive rally in AI and technology stocks. However, over the last month, this rally has broadened out to other sectors of the market, which is what is needed to keep the new bull market alive. Whether this can continue will depend on corporate earnings, inflation, and interest rates. So far, so good.

As I mentioned in my June article, there are other sectors of the stock market that are attractive. Dividend-paying stocks in the healthcare, financial, energy and industrial sectors look inexpensive compared to AI and technology stocks. Even international stocks are attractive and are trading at an average price-earnings ratio of 13 versus the S&P 500 Index Fund with an average PE ratio of 23.

Bonds & Money Market Funds

For investors who don’t want to buy stocks, bonds are a good alternative once again. Riskless short-term treasury bills yield 5.5%; money market funds and investment-grade corporate bonds pay 5%. If investors want to take more fixed-income risk, they can buy high-yield bonds that pay over 8%. Bond yields haven’t been this favorable since 2008 and the financial crisis.

The Fed will meet again September 19-20. Today the stock market is telling us there will be a soft landing in lieu of a recession, and no more interest rate increases for the rest of the year. It is difficult for investors to trust these rosy scenarios, jump on the bandwagon and chase this rally, particularly if they have been sitting on the sidelines. We could see a serious case of FOMO (“fear of missing out”) by the end of the year, and this is like adding gasoline to a fire.

Investors tend to hate watching the markets go up without them. This is why market timing is impossible. As our Beacon Pointe Chief Investment Officer likes to say, volatility is the price we pay to make money in the markets. However, if these three assumptions are wrong, whatever positive gains we have seen so far this year could evaporate. Being an investor is not easy.


Thumbnail Fred Taylor HeadshotFred Taylor is a Partner, Managing Director at Beacon Pointe Advisors, LLC. The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only. Opinions referenced are as of the publication date and may be modified due to changes in the market or economic conditions and may not necessarily come to pass. Forward-looking statements cannot be guaranteed. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Beacon Pointe has exercised all reasonable professional care in preparing this information.