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The Fed Is Looking For Tighter Financial Conditions; Good Luck Stocks

This column is my opinion and expresses my views. Those views can change at a moments notice when the market changes. I am not right all the time and I do not expect to be. I disclose all my positions clearly listed on the page, and I do not trade my account on the stocks spoken of in this column unless fully disclosed. If that does not work for you stop reading and close the page. Do not bother me or harass me.

Otherwise, enjoy the column!

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3/16/22

STOCKS – None

MACRO – SPY, Rates

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Stocks finished higher for the second day in a row, as traders looked to close puts into the final hour of trading, which led to a volatility melt. The options delta hedging action was positive, indicating traders were closing out SPX puts. The SPY and QQQ ETFs had negative delta hedging, suggesting that traders were buying puts and selling calls in those ETFs.

But really, the path of monetary policy the Fed laid out was for rates to be above the neutral rate in 2023 and 2024. That was more hawkish than even my hawkish expectations. From listening to Powell’s press conference, the Fed aims for tighter financial conditions, and those tighter conditions will lead to lower multiples and stock prices.

When financial conditions tighten, stocks go down. Financial conditions are already tighter today than in 2018; as they go higher, stocks will decline in value. So if you think the Fed said nothing today, you are entirely wrong. They indicated they wanted to raise rates to 2.8% for 2023 and 2024, which is above the neutral rate. They are telling us that they want financial conditions to tighten. Remember, do not fight the Fed; it works both ways.

Additionally, the difference between this rate hiking cycle and past rate hiking cycles is that now the economy is growing at an anemic pace; we are not at the start or early stages of an expansion; this expansion is slowing dramatically. Atlanta Fed is indicating that first-quarter growth is around 1.2%.

S&P 500 (SPY)

The S&P 500 is still very much in a downtrend, and the past 2 days look very similar to January 28 and 29 rally, and the February 24 and February 25 rally. I don’t think there is much else here; then some put values getting burned up and closed out into today’s expiration date.

Rates

The two-year was up to 1.94% by day’s end and will need to go much higher than that if the Fed gets its target rate to 2.8% by next year. It is likely headed to 2.2% in the short term.

Additionally, the yield curve saw the 7-yr rate move higher than the 10-yr rate, and I suspect the 5-yr will be moving higher than 10-Yr very shortly.

None of this should be bullish for stocks.

Mike

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