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The Weekly Economic & Market Recap    

June 14, 2019  

We have spent a significant amount of time discussing the rapid shift in the language used by Federal Reserve officials over the last few months. The Fed seems to be preparing the market for a possible rate cut if the economy slides south due to a weak manufacturing sector or trade issues. The change in the market’s expectations regarding the future level of fed funds has been stunning. In October, fed funds futures were pricing in three rate increases, which was consistent with the Fed’s dot plot. Immediately after the rate hike in December, and despite the negative equity market draw-down in the fourth quarter, fed fund futures were still pricing in one increase in 2019. After the dramatic deterioration in the U.S.-China trade situation in May and the heightened probability of a prolonged trade dispute, the market is now pricing in roughly two-and-half cuts to the fed funds rate. As the market becomes more convinced that the Fed’s next move will be to lower rates, equity indexes have rallied and once again approached old highs. Price-to-earnings multiples are a function of investor confidence and interest rates. As interest rates drop, the discount rate for equities decreases driving PE multiples higher along with stock prices. The relationship between lower interest rates and higher PE multiples hold if the interest rate decline is not the harbinger of a recession. Investor confidence will erode if investors become concerned that a weak economy will cause earnings to fall. A meaningful downdraft in the equity market is the result of a process that begins with PE multiple compression that ultimately gets amplified as earnings estimates get revised lower. The steep decline in interest rates is concerning and is signaling a global economic slowdown with increased downside risks - the yield on the 5-year US Treasury declined from 3.04% at the beginning of November to 1.84% today. Economic indicators, however, seem to imply that the economy has enough forward momentum that a recession does not appear to be imminent. We expect that the U.S. economy remains on a modest growth path of 2% real GDP growth.

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