We would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. At North Star, we are deeply thankful for our wonderful clients that we have the pleasure and honor of serving. We are also thankful for the potential return to the “not too hot and not too cold” Goldilocks economy, which seemed evident in recent weeks. The past week certainly provided more data that “higher for longer” Fed interest rates are, in our view, likely “higher than necessary,” and the consensus among financial markets participants seems to be moving toward our view.
The major stock market indexes scored strong gains for a third straight week as Treasury yields continued to fall. The rally was fueled by the CPI and PPI reports that showed the former flat and the latter down 0.5% month over month, sequentially. We may sound like a broken record on inflation, but for several weeks, we have observed that increasingly the surprisingly tame U.S. inflation data supports our position that the Fed Funds rate should be viewed as “higher than necessary” rather than “higher for longer.” The futures market now suggests that the pivot to rate cuts is likely in the first half of 2024, with the rate being 100 basis points lower by the end of the year. The yield on the 10-year Treasury dropped 19 basis points for the week to 4.44%. Shorter term rates declined similarly, and the 2-year Treasury settled in at 4.9%. Without a doubt, the past two years of financial markets history have shown that moves in long-term interest rates impact spending, economic trends, and corporate earnings, so the sustainability of recent equity markets gains will be at least somewhat dependent on the consensus outlook for long-term interest rates.
The strength in third-quarter corporate earnings is another reason to be thankful, with composite growth of 4.3% versus expectations of a small decline. Additionally, during the earnings conference calls, there was a marked decrease in companies mentioning “inflation” or “recession.” In fact, this quarter will mark the lowest number of companies mentioning “recession” since the fourth quarter of 2021, and “inflation” since the second quarter of 2021.
The emerging Goldilocks scenario of a stable economy with tame inflation and lower interest rates was particularly favorable for small-caps stocks, with the Russell 2000 jumping 5.5%. Every sector of the market finished in the green, advancing issues outnumbered declining issues by a factor of nearly 5-1, with the S&P 500 rising 2.2%, and the Nasdaq Composite climbing 2.4%. The dollar and crude oil both moved lower, while gold continued its recent advance.
On the Chicago sports scene, the Bears were ahead by 12 points with three minutes left in the game against the Lions on Sunday. They lost.
It should be a slow news week in the financial markets with holiday-shortened trading in observance of Thanksgiving. The minutes from the last FOMC meeting will be released midday on Tuesday, as will Nvidia’s earnings after the market close. There will be a smattering of other corporate earnings, and no significant economic releases. Because there are few significant economic releases until the first week of December, which includes the JOLTS job openings report and the November employment report, more attention during the next two weeks will probably be on the U.S. national debt and deficits, as well as geopolitical events.
The stocks mentioned above may be holdings in our mutual funds. For more information, please visit www.nsinvestfunds.com.