The Hawkish Fed Loop

Apollo Chief Economist

Inflation data will come out tomorrow and the consensus expects a decline in inflation from 7.1% in November to 6.5% in December.

With inflation trending lower since June, the Fed is moving from 75 to 50 to 25 basis point hikes, and the market is interpreting the downshift in rate hikes as dovish because there is now more clarity about what the peak will be in the Fed funds rate during this cycle.

But the market’s focus on the change in inflation rather than the level of inflation is a problem for the Fed. The Fed worries about the level of inflation being too high and wants to be hawkish to make sure that inflation gets all the way back to 2%.

In other words, the market takes its cue from the change in the inflation rate, and concludes that “inflation is coming down, so everything is fine and we can trade stocks higher and credit spreads tighter.” But this is a problem for the Fed because the Fed is worried that easier financial conditions will delay further the move in inflation back to 2%, see chart below.

The bottom line is that the endogenous nature of the loop in the chart below leaves the Fed with no other options than to continue to be hawkish, and this continued hawkishness is limiting how much equity and credit markets can rally over the coming months.

There is a limit to how much markets can rally during the hawkish Fed loop
Source: Apollo Chief Economist

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