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The Latest from Our Blog

There Was a Shift in the Winds of Monetary Policy.

Last week, it became clear the Federal Reserve (Fed) had softened its hawkish stance. The minutes of the central bank’s November policy meeting indicated the Fed was likely to slow the pace of rate hikes soon. There was a caveat, though. The minutes noted: “…with inflation showing little sign thus far of abating, and with supply and demand imbalances in the economy persisting…the ultimate level of the federal funds rate that would be necessary to achieve the Committee’s goals was somewhat higher than [Fed officials] had previously expected.” In other words, rate hikes are likely to be smaller in the f

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Last Week Was Remarkable For Many Reasons.

One reason is that skywatchers around the world had an opportunity to see a total lunar eclipse. The moon, Earth and sun aligned, causing the moon to appear crimson. We won’t see another total lunar eclipse for three years, reported Denise Chow of NBC News. Another reason, and one that’s far more important to consumers and investors, is that data suggested inflation may be waning. The Consumer Price Index, a measure of inflation, was released last week. It showed that prices rose more slowly than expected in October. On an annual basis: Headline inflation fell to 7.7 percent in October from 8.2 percent in September. Core inflation, which excludes food and energy prices, fell to 6.3 percent in October from 6.6 percent in September. Investors were enthusiastic, hoping the Federal Reserve (Fed) would begin to take a more measured approach to tighten monetary policy. Fed o

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Some Companies Are Doing Better Than Others – A Lot Better.

It’s earnings season; the time when companies share how well they performed during the previous quarter. Earnings reports are important because they provide information about a company’s financial health. Shareholders pay particular attention to earnings, which are company profits after expenses have been subtracted. At the end of last week, slightly more than half of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 Index had reported results for the third quarter of 2022. The blended earnings growth rate* for the S&P 500 was 4.1 percent, year-over-year, according to I/B/E/S data from Refinitiv. The worst performing sector was communication services, which includes some big technology names. Earnings for the sector were down 20.9 percent for the third quarter. At the other end of the spectrum was the energy sector with year-over-year earnings growth of about 136 percent. The sector was led by big oil companies, some of which posted record profits, reported Sabrina Valle and Ron Bousso of Reuters.

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Bah Humbug!

Last week, OPEC+, which includes the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allied oil producers like Russia, chose to cut production by two million barrels a day. The stated goal is to keep crude oil prices above $90 a barrel. The production cut, which will push gasoline and other prices higher, complicates efforts to fight inflation, reported Salma El Wardany and colleagues at Bloomberg. According to economic data, the Federal Reserve’s inflation fight has produced mixed results, so far. Like the ghosts that visit Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, economic data offers information about what has happened in the past, what is occurring in the present, and what could happen in the future. Rec

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Central Bank Tightening Sparked Recession Fears

Last week, the Federal Reserve (Fed) raised the federal funds rate for the fifth time this year. During 2022, the Fed has lifted its benchmark rate from near zero to 3.12 percent. Fed policymakers indicated that they expect to raise the rate again this year. That’s going to make borrowing more expensive as rates on credit cards, home mortgages and business loans increase. Frankly, that’s the Fed’s goal. It wants to tamp down consumer and business spending. When spending falls, demand for goods and services falls and so do prices. Lower prices mean lower inflation. Unfortunately, inflation has a long way to fall. The Fed’s inflation target is two percent. In August, the Consumer Price Index showed inflation was 8.3 percent. The Fed isn’t the only central bank hiking its country’s rate. “We are experiencing one of the most synchronized bouts of monetary and fiscal tightening in the past five decades,” reported Daniel Moss of Bloomberg. Ninety central banks have raised rates during 2022. “The relentlessness with which central banks are increasing interest rates reflects alarm at risin

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Central banks Are Hawkish. Stocks Popped Higher, Anyway.

Last week, despite signs that inflation is slowing, U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) officials emphasized their commitment to tightening monetary policy to lower inflation. Several indicated they anticipate a third consecutive rate hike of 75 basis points, reported Craig Torres and Matthew Boesler of Bloomberg. Investors seemed to disregard the Fed as U.S. stocks moved higher, snapping a three-week losing streak. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index finished the week up 3.6 percent, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 2.7 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite rose 4.1 percent, reported Christine Idzelis and Joseph Adinolfi of MarketWatch.

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