Jan 31, 2019

Jerome Powell finally gets a ringing endorsement

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Data: Bespoke Investment Group; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Jerome Powell finally got the markets on his side. The S&P 500 fell after each of his first seven FOMC meetings as chairman (by far the longest on record), but the market jolted higher on Wednesday.

One big quote: "The big pivot in FOMC communication was not just the introduction of the word ‘patient,’ but also the removal of forward guidance explicitly signaling that the next change [will be a rate increase]," said Ian Lyngen, head of U.S. rates strategy at BMO Capital Markets.

  • "This is all the more remarkable given that back in December, 15 FOMC members anticipated one or more hikes to be prudent in 2019. There certainly has been a change of heart in D.C."

Bank of America Merrill Lynch called it the "Dove Show."

Between the lines: Whether Wednesday was, in fact, a good day depended on who you asked and what they buy.

  • Dollar bulls got punched in the mouth, with the dollar index falling to its lowest in three weeks.
  • Bond traders saw opportunity, as the Treasury yield curve steepened with investors buying shorter-dated bonds. Fed fund futures show the market is pricing in no more rate hikes this year and almost the same likelihood of a rate cut as a rate hike by December.
  • Stock traders were giddy. The Dow jumped more than 400 points (Dow 25K!!!) and the Nasdaq gained 2.17%.

What's next? Scott Minerd, global chief investment officer at Guggenheim Partners, said the Fed’s pause will allow excesses to continue to build and increase the risks of financial instability. But that's a good thing if you like to party.

  • "The Fed refilled the punch bowl and the party goes on," Minerd told Reuters. "Buy risk assets."

Go deeper: Jerome Powell's attempts to please everyone have backfired

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Powell and the risk-off bull market

Jerome Powell. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Fed’s 180-degree turn was the story of 2019, asset managers and market analysts say.

What happened: Chairman Jerome Powell and the U.S. central bank went from raising interest rates for a fourth time at the close of 2018 and giving market watchers the explicit expectation this would continue in 2019, to doing the opposite. The Fed cut rates thrice and even began re-padding its balance sheet in the last quarter of the year, bringing it back above $4 trillion.

Go deeperArrowJan 2, 2020

Why it was so hard for investors to lose money in 2019

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

2019 was the rare year when the simple investing strategy of targeting almost anything would have worked, the New York Times notes.

What happened: A series of interest rate cuts this year from the Federal Reserve — the first since the Great Recession — juiced the markets, making it a great time for investors.

Go deeperArrowDec 31, 2019

S&P 500 doubled its average return under past presidents during Trump's first 3 years

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The S&P 500 has had a return of over 50% during President Trump's first three years in office, more than doubling the average return of 23% at the same point in a presidential term since 1928, CNBC reports.

The big picture: The market, which hit record highs across the three major indices, got a sustained lift in 2019 after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell lowered interest rates three times, the first such moves since the end of the financial crisis.

Go deeperArrowDec 26, 2019