S&P 500 rallies as Fed tightens

Stocks rallied, with the S&P 500 recovering above thew former primary support level at 4300. Follow-through above 4400 would be a short-term bull signal.

S&P 500

Markets were lifted by reports of progress on a Russia-Ukraine peace agreement — although that is unlikely to affect sanctions on Russia this year — while the Fed went ahead with “the most publicized quarter point rate hike in world history” according to Julian Brigden at MI2 Partners.


The Federal Reserve on Wednesday approved its first interest rate increase in more than three years, an incremental salvo to address spiraling inflation without torpedoing economic growth. After keeping its benchmark interest rate anchored near zero since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, the policymaking Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said it will raise rates by a quarter percentage point, or 25 basis points….. Fed officials indicated the rate increases will come with slower economic growth this year. Along with the rate hikes, the committee also penciled in increases at each of the six remaining meetings this year, pointing to a consensus funds rate of 1.9% by year’s end. (CNBC)

Rate hikes are likely to continue at every meeting until the economy slows or the Fed breaks something — which is quite likely. To say the plumbing of the global financial system is complicated would be an understatement and we are already seeing reports of yield curves misbehaving (a negative yield curve warns of recession).

Federal Reserve policymakers have made “excellent progress” on their plan for reducing the central bank’s nearly $9 trillion balance sheet, and could finalize details at their next policy meeting in May, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Wednesday. Overall, he said, the plan will look “familiar” to when the Fed last reduced bond holdings between 2017 and 2019, “but it will be faster than the last time, and of course it’s much sooner in the cycle than last time.” (Reuters)

The last time the Fed tried to shrink its balance sheet, between 2017 and 2019, it caused repo rates (SOFR) to explode in September 2019. The Fed was panicked into lending in the repo market and restarting QE, ending their QT experiment.



Equities are unlikely to be fazed by initial rate hikes but markets are highly sensitive to liquidity. A decline in the Fed’s balance sheet would be mirrored by a fall in M2 money supply.

M2 Money Supply/GDP & Fed Total Assets/GDP

And a similar decline in stocks.

S&P 500 & Fed Total Assets

Ukraine & Russia

Unfortunately, Ukrainian and French officials poured cold water on prospects of an early ceasefire.

Annmarie Horden

Neil Ellis

Samuel Ramani


Financial markets were correct not be alarmed by the prospect of Fed rate hikes. The real interest rate remains deeply negative. But commencement of quantitative tightening (QT) in May is likely to drain liquidity, causing stocks to decline.

Relief over prospects of a Russia-Ukraine ceasefire and/or any reductions in sanctions is premature.

The bear market is likely to continue.

US October payrolls justifies December move

From Elliot Clarke at Westpac:

Recent softer gains for nonfarm payrolls cast doubt over labour market momentum, giving cause for some to question whether the FOMC would be able to deliver a first hike before the year is out.

The October report changed that view, with the 271k gain for payrolls taking the month-average pace back up to 206k as the unemployment rate declined to 5.0%.

There is certainly more room for improvement in the US labour market. But subsequent gains need to come at a more measured pace.

We continue to anticipate that a first rate hike will be delivered at the December FOMC meeting.

Read more at Northern Exposure: October payrolls justifies December move

Will the Fed hike rates?

The market eagerly awaits the decision of the Fed Open Market Committee (FOMC) on whether to lift the target interest rate (FFR) from its 0.00 – 0.25 percent range maintained since the dark days of 2008.

Core CPI

Core CPI remains subdued at 1.83 percent for the 12 months to August — close to its 2 percent target — so there is no urgency to increase rates despite a strengthening job market.

The act of revising the target rate is largely symbolic. There is no doubt that the economy can withstand an increase in the Fed Funds Rate to 0.5%. But commencement of a tightening cycle may scare an already jittery market. There is a fairly equal split amongst economists as to whether the Fed should proceed with the rate rise or not. My guess is that the Fed will opt for a bet each way, with a wider target range (say 0.00 to 0.50 percent) or a reduced increment (say 0.10 to 0.30 percent). The effective FFR is currently sitting at 0.14 percent and I am sure the Fed’s plan is to continue with a gradual increase over time and no sudden movements.

Effective Fed Funds Rate

The S&P 500 is testing resistance at 2000 after a higher trough and rising 21-day Twiggs Money Flow indicate buying pressure. Recovery above 2000 would signal a relieving rally, while respect of resistance would suggest another test of support at 1900.

S&P 500 Index

* Target calculation: 1900 – ( 2000 – 1900 ) = 1800

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) indicates market risk is declining.

S&P 500 VIX

NYSE short sales are also declining.

NYSE Short Sales

Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above resistance at 16700. Follow-through after the FOMC decision would confirm a relieving rally. Reversal below 16600 would warn of another test of 16000. Failure of support at 16000 is unlikely, but would signal a primary down-trend. Recovery of 21-day Twiggs Money Flow above zero indicates medium-term buying pressure.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

Canada’s TSX 60 recovered above 800, indicating solid support between 790 and 800. Recovery above 820 and the descending channel would signal that the correction has ended. Rising 13-week Twiggs Momentum would strengthen the signal, while recovery above zero would confirm.

TSX 60 Index

* Target calculation: 800 – ( 900 – 800 ) = 700


Germany’s DAX found support at 10000. Recovery above 10500 would suggest a relieving rally, but only follow-through above the descending trendline and resistance at 11000 would confirm. Respect of the zero line by 13-week Twiggs Money Flow is a bullish sign; completion of a trough above zero would confirm long-term buying pressure.


The Footsie similarly found support at 6000. Recovery above 6300 would indicate a relieving rally. Penetration of the descending trendline would confirm.

FTSE 100


The Shanghai Composite Index continues to test (enforced) support at 3000. Recovery above 3500 is unlikely, but would indicate that the crisis has passed.

Dow Jones Shanghai Index

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index found support at 21000 and is likely to test the former primary support level at 23000. 13-Week Twiggs Money Flow below zero indicates long-term selling pressure, but recovery above zero would suggest a false signal. Breakout above 23000 and the descending trendline is unlikely, but would signal that the down-trend is over.

Hang Seng Index

Japan’s Nikkei 225 found support at 17500. Recovery above 19000 would signal a rally to test resistance at 21000. The gradual decline on 13-week Twiggs Money Flow suggests medium-term selling pressure rather than a primary (long-term) shift.

Nikkei 225 Index

* Target calculation: 19000 + ( 19000 – 17500 ) = 20500

India’s Sensex is headed for a test of the new resistance level at 26500. The primary trend is downward. Respect of the zero line by 13-week Twiggs Money Flow indicates medium-term buying pressure. Recovery above 26500 is unlikely, but would warn of a bear trap. Respect of resistance remains more likely and would suggest another decline.


* Target calculation: 25000 – ( 26500 – 25000 ) = 23500


The ASX 200 continues to test primary support at 5000. 21-Day Twiggs Money Flow oscillating around zero indicates uncertainty. Breach of 5000 would confirm a primary down-trend. Recovery above 5300 is less likely, but would indicate a bear rally.

ASX 200

* Target calculation: 5000 – ( 5400 – 5000 ) = 4600

Just a word of caution. Relieving rallies can (and often do) fail. Probability of a continued primary up-trend will only improve once support levels have been tested. Early movers always face greater uncertainty. Which is why our long-term portfolios continue to hold high levels of cash.


Why Europe Failed

Not much wrong with the US economy

NYSE short sales easing

Marcus Miller & Eric Clapton [music]

You really wonder why leaders want these jobs when they really do not want to lead. And what is their risk? That Barack Obama will not get a second term? Or that Angela Merkel’s coalition might finally end up on the rocks? If they actually made the leap they might astound themselves. Because, in the end, everyone in political life gets carried out — the only relevant question is whether the pallbearers will be crying.

~ Paul Keating, 24th Prime Minister of Australia (2011)

Public Debt and the Long-Run Neutral Real Interest Rate | Narayana Kocherlakota

Extract from a speech by Narayana Kocherlakota, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, in Seoul, South Korea on August 19, 2015:

There has been a significant decline in the long-run neutral real interest rate in the United States over the past few years.

10-Year TIPS Yields

This decline in the long-run neutral real interest rate increases the future likelihood that the FOMC will be unable to achieve its objectives because of financial instability or because of a binding lower bound on the nominal interest rate. Plausible economic models imply that the fiscal authority can mitigate this problem by issuing more public debt, although such issuance is not without cost. It is, of course, the province of the fiscal authority to determine whether those costs are worth the benefits that I’ve emphasized…

How we got in this mess

There are two critically important price signals in the economy — the interest rate and the exchange rate. Tampering with them encourages distortions, leading to instability.

  • The Austrians were right: allow market forces of supply and demand to set a neutral interest rate.
  • The main function of regulators should be to ensure that debt growth is consistent with economic (GDP) growth else the banks can distort the supply of money by excessive debt creation.
  • The Austrians are also right about not running consistent fiscal deficits.
  • The other important element is to avoid consistent current account deficits to achieve a fair exchange rate.

None of these (in my view) sensible guidelines have been adhered to for the last half-century. Financial markets are in a real mess and Austrian “hands-off” policies are now insufficient to get us out of it. The only real alternative is to employ “hair of the dog” remedies advocated by Keynes: run fiscal deficits, increase public debt and distort real interest rates. Remember that Keynes published his General Theory in 1936 when financial markets were in an even bigger mess. Even a broken clock is right twice a day (or twice a century in Keynes case).

As for the Monetarists, Market Monetarists present the best opportunity to get us out of this “Keynesian hell” and set us on the path to Austrian (and Monetarist) utopia.

Read more of Narayana Kocherlakota’s speech at Public Debt and the Long-Run Neutral Real Interest Rate | Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Gold rallies on Fed “dovish” statement

The Fed Open Market Committee (FOMC) dropped the word “patient”, but market bulls responded positively to its “dovish” post-meeting statement. Jeff Cox at CNBC writes:

… the mostly dovish statement made little fanfare over eliminating the word, and in fact stated specifically that “an increase in the target range for the federal funds rate remains unlikely at the April FOMC meeting,” a phrase missing from previous communiques……

“The Committee anticipates that it will be appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate when it has seen further improvement in the labor market and is reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent objective over the medium term,” the statement said.

Like I said: “…. Janet Yellen will move when the time is right. And not before.”

Ten-year Treasury Note yields broke through 2.00%, warning of another test of primary support at 1.65%. 13-Week Twiggs Momentum below zero continues to signal a down-trend. Recovery above 2.00% is unlikely, but would signal a rally to 2.50%.

10-Year Treasury Yields

The Dollar retreated from long-term resistance at 100. Rising 13-week Twiggs Momentum signals a strong (primary) up-trend. Respect of support at 95.5 would indicate continuation of the trend.

Dollar Index

* Target calculation: 100 + ( 100 – 90 ) = 110

Gold rallied on the back of a softer dollar and weaker interest rate outlook. Expect a rally to test $1200/ounce, but respect of this level would reinforce the primary down-trend. Breach of support at $1140/$1150 would confirm. 13-Week Twiggs Momentum below zero strengthens the bear signal.

Spot Gold

* Target calculation: 1200 – ( 1400 – 1200 ) = 1000

March FOMC Meeting | Business Insider

The Committee continues to see downside risks to the economic outlook. The Committee also anticipates that inflation over the medium term likely will run at or below its 2 percent objective.

To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee decided to continue purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month and longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $45 billion per month. The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. Taken together, these actions should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative.

via March FOMC Meeting – Business Insider.

Federal Reserve FOMC statement | Press Release

…..Although strains in global financial markets have eased somewhat, the Committee continues to see downside risks to the economic outlook. The Committee also anticipates that inflation over the medium term likely will run at or below its 2 percent objective.

To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee will continue purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month and longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $45 billion per month……

To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee expects that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends and the economic recovery strengthens. In particular, the Committee decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that this exceptionally low range for the federal funds rate will be appropriate at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal……

Read the complete statement at FRB: Press Release–Federal Reserve issues FOMC statement–January 30, 2013.

The Fed's interest rate policies are damaging rather than restoring confidence and should be reversed

Vince Foster at The Fiscal Times writes about this Wednesday’s FOMC meeting:

With Operation Twist due to expire at the end of the year and because the Fed is essentially out of short-term bonds with which to finance purchases, it is virtually assured that they will opt for outright purchases financed with printed money……….Now, said Ned Davis Research in a report last week, the Fed is likely to replace Operation Twist with purchases of Treasuries, perhaps in the $45 billion a month range, bringing its total monthly purchases to $85 billion.

Outright purchases of long-term Treasuries are far more expansionary than Operation Twist purchases which are off-set by the sale of shorter-term maturities.

Foster discusses Fed motives, considering that previous QE failed to lower interest rates or lift stock market values.

It has been my contention that the main objective is not to reflate asset prices but rather to stimulate credit creation and the velocity of money. According the Fed’s H.8 Release banks are holding over $2.6 trillion in cash that’s sitting idle on their balance sheet in securities portfolios. Bernanke is trying to flush the banking system out of these bloated securities positions and into extending credit by lowering bond yields to levels where banks can no longer afford to hold them.

Foster points out that negative real interest rates may be discouraging banks from lending, inhibiting the recovery. Also that bank balance sheets — bloated with Treasuries and MBS ($2.6 trillion) purchased as an alternative to lending — are vulnerable to capital losses should interest rates rise.

The Fed’s low-interest-rate policies have created a powder keg while being largely ineffectual in stimulating credit creation and consumption. The safest approach would be to reverse these policies and raise interest rates. Raising long-term rates to sustainable levels would reduce uncertainty and help restore confidence. House prices and stocks may initially fall but this would flush any excess inventory out of the system, giving purchasers and banks confidence that the market really has bottomed. With higher rates and stable collateral, banks will be more willing to lend.

At present we are all sheltering under the shadow of the Fed’s low-interest-rate umbrella, but with a nagging fear as to what will happen when the Fed takes the umbrella away. Fed policies are no longer adding confidence but increasing uncertainty. The sooner the umbrella is removed, the sooner the system will return to normality.

QE is likely to continue — Treasury needs to print money in order to fund the fiscal deficit — but this can still occur at higher rates. The fiscal deficit unfortunately will remain with us for some time — until confidence is completely restored and deflationary effects of private sector deleveraging are consigned to the history books.

Read more at How the Fed Will Affect Economy, Market in 2013 | The Fiscal Times.

Dollar surges as Fed nixes QE3

The US Dollar Index surged after the latest FOMC statement avoided any mention of additional purchases of Treasuries or mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Though they did leave the door ajar with their concluding paragraph:

………The Committee discussed the range of policy tools available to promote a stronger economic recovery in a context of price stability. It will continue to assess the economic outlook in light of incoming information and is prepared to employ its tools as appropriate.

The index respected the new support level at 76.00, confirming a primary advance to 79* — the start of a primary up-trend. 63-Day Twiggs Momentum crossed to above zero, further strengthening the primary trend signal; a large trough that respects the zero line would provide final confirmation.

US Dollar Index $DXY

* Target calculation: 76 + ( 76 – 73 ) = 79