While indexes did manage to make small gains yesterday, they remain in negative territory for the year. The “buy-the-dip” trading mentality that helped indexes swiftly rebound from downturns the past couple of years has mostly been smothered by uncertainty about Federal Reserve monetary policy in the months ahead.
In other words lots of people are freaked out and a bit nervous about how stocks might perform in a rate hiking environment.
Just keep in mind, from June 2004 to June 2006 Fed Funds went from 1.00% to 5.25%. There were a total of 17 rate increases across this period, each 25 basis points and stocks did not get hammered.
Today, inflation seems to be the Fed’s guiding light and investors are extremely concerned that data between now and the central bank’s next meeting on March 15-16 will fail to show any signs that price pressures are easing. That’s largely due to fallout from the Omicron Covid wave that further exacerbated supply chain dislocations and labor shortages.
Those two issues have been key drivers of escalating inflation which has pushed higher nearly every month since June of 2020. The only exceptions are October, when CPI came in flat, and November when it dipped a puny -0.1%.
Data to watch
Upcoming data to watch includes the January Consumer Price Index (CPI) tomorrow, the PCE Prices Index for January on 2/25, the February Employment Situation on 3/4, and March CPI on 3/10.
Today, investors will be scrutinizing the Energy Information Administration’s Petroleum Status Report. The report last week showed an unexpected decline in U.S. crude inventories, as well as raw oil at the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery point for WTI. Cushing inventories stood just above 30 million barrels as of January 28—down from 60 million barrels at the start of 2021, and down from 37 million barrels at the end of 2021. U.S. distillate levels are particularly concerning, with inventories as of January 28 falling to the lowest seasonal level in eight years.
The low inventories, which were -26 million barrels (-17%) below the pre-pandemic five-year average, are likely the result of booming manufacturing and freight demand. The American Petroleum Institute yesterday estimated that distillate inventories declined last week by -2.2 million barrels while U.S. crude supplies likely dipped by over -2 million barrels.
Most oil insiders believe the world oil market is under-supplied with OPEC+ struggling to meet production targets and economic activity rapidly rebounding from the Omicron wave that swept the entire globe.
Analysts think that signs of easing tensions between Russia and the West could stall the current rally in oil prices but it will likely only be temporary as supply concerns escalate.
On earnings front, today’s highlights include Bunge, Cerner, CVS, Disney, GlaxoSmithKline, Honda, Mattel, MGM Resorts, Motorola, O’Reilly Automotive, Toyota, Twilio, and Uber.