Inflation fever breaks


The Federal Reserve (Fed) doves got a big energy boost yesterday by a slightly lower-than-expected inflation report. The headline inflation fell to 3.2% in October from 3.7% printed a month earlier, and core inflation eased to 4% from 4.1% printed a month earlier. Services excluding housing and energy costs – the so-called super core figure closely watched by the Fed – rose only 0.2% and shelter costs rose only 0.3%, down from a 0.6% advance printed a month earlier. The soft set of inflation print cemented the expectation that the Fed is done hiking the interest rates. The US 2-year yield – which best captures the rate bets – tanked 24bp to 4.81%. The 10-year slipped below 4.50% and activity on Fed funds futures gives around 95% chance for a no rate hike in December. That probability stood at around 85% before yesterday’s US CPI data.  

In equities, the S&P500 jumped past its 100-DMA, spiked above the 4500 mark, and closed the session a few points below this level. Nasdaq 100 extended its gain to 15850. In the FX, the US dollar took a severe hit. The index fell 1.50% on Tuesday, pulled out a major Fibonacci support and sank into the medium-term bearish consolidation zone. The EURUSD jumped to almost the 1.09 level. Yes, there is no mistake – to nearly 1.09 level, and Cable flirted with the 1.25 resistance. What a day!  

A small parenthesis on UK inflation  

Good news came from Britain this morning, as well. Inflation in the UK fell 6.7% to 4.6% in October, lower than the 4.7% penciled in by analysts. Core inflation also eased more than expected to 5.7%. There is growing evidence that the major central banks’ efforts are bearing fruit. Cable is sold after the CPI data, but the pullback will likely remain short-lived if the USD appetite continues to wane globally. 

Back to US: Retail sales, big retail earnings & US political jitters  

Yesterday’s rush to open fresh long US Treasury positions was likely intensified by a hurry to cover short positions. We shall see a correction in the US yields, as the Fed members still maintain their position for ‘higher for longer’ interest rates. But the market position is clear. The pricing now suggests a 50bp cut from the Fed by July next year; the sweet and sour cocktail of softening jobs market and easing inflation suggests that the Fed’s next move will probably be a rate cut, rather than a rate hike.  

So yes, ladies and gentlemen, the way is being paved for a potential Santa rally this year. But the Fed will continue to calm down the game, and any strength in the US economic data should reinforce the ‘high for long’ rhetoric and tame appetite. 

Investors will watch the US retail sales data today. A strong figure could pour cold water on heated Fed cut bets. A soft figure, on the other hand, could bring in more buyers to US bond markets.  

On the individual front, Home Depot shares rallied more than 5% yesterday. Earnings and revenue narrowed and the company released a cautious year-end guidance, but the results were better than expected. Target is due to report today, and Walmart on Thursday. 

To add another layer of complexity – on top of the economic data and corporate earnings – the US political scene will impact bond pricing in the next few days. The US politicians try to avoid a government shutdown by Friday. The latest news suggests that the odds of shutdown diminished yesterday as House Speaker Mike Johnson gained more Democratic support for his interim funding plan. The interim plan however excludes aid for Ukraine, aid for Israel and could lead to a two-step shutdown at the start of next year. And it does not include the steep spending cuts that the hardcore Republicans are looking for. In summary, the political mess continues.  

In the best-case scenario, the US politicians will agree on another short-term relief package and avoid a government shutdown, push away the threat of another rating cut – from Moody’s this time. The latter would maintain appetite in US bonds and support a further rally in the US stocks. In the worst-case scenario, the US government will stop its operations by the end of this week and the political chaos will lead to a bounce in US yields and stall the equity rally.

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