Rising Macro Risks Means Fed Will Pause But Risk Assets are Cooked

Samantha Subin and Brian Evans of CNBC report the S&P 500 snaps 3-day losing streak Friday, suffers first weekly decline in three:

Stocks rose slightly on Friday but logged a losing week amid renewed worries that the Federal Reserve may raise rates more than previously expected.

The S&P 500 edged up 0.14% to snap a three-day losing streak and finish at 4,457.49. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 75.86 points, or 0.22%, to close at 34,576.59, while the Nasdaq Composite eked out a 0.09% gain to settle at 13,761.53.

Major averages also capped off a losing week. The S&P and Nasdaq dropped 1.3% and 1.9%, respectively, for their first negative week in three. The Dow finished about 0.8% lower.

Energy stocks rose Friday as oil prices continued their recent rise. The S&P sector increased 1% and posted a 1.4% weekly gain. Major winners included Marathon Petroleum and Phillips 66, both up about 3%. Valero Energy jumped 4%.

Some technology stocks that have struggled in recent sessions found their footing. After two straight losing days, Apple inched up 0.4%. Microsoft and Salesforce rose about 1%. Other names, including Nvidia and Tesla, fell more than 1%. Block shed 5.3% as the payments company grappled with a systems outage.

Investors may have found some comfort in the lack of bad news during Friday’s session following a string of stronger-than-expected economic data points earlier in the week, said Bryce Doty, a senior vice president and portfolio manager at Sit Investment Associates.

“When you think of the economy, it’s a Catch-22 for investors,” he said. “If it looks like we’re going to avoid the hard landing, we get some good economic news, and there’s a sigh of relief quickly followed up by an increased expectation of Fed rate increases.”

Recent economic data, including lower-than-expected initial jobless claims, have reignited rate hike fears and concerns that the Federal Reserve may have more work ahead. As of Friday, traders are pricing in greater than 4 in 10 chances of an increase in November after an anticipated pause in September, according to CME Group’s Fed Watch tool.

These factors, along with signs that companies are faring decently despite rising interest rates, are contributing to the current “tug-of-war” of choppiness in markets, said Yung-Yu Ma, the chief investment strategist at BMO Wealth Management.

“Right now, we’re in that strange phase where good news can be bad news, but I don’t think that lasts too long,” he said, adding that softening consumer spending could flip that narrative. “We’re just not there yet.”

Elsewhere, investors pored over the latest batch of corporate earnings reports. E-signature stock DocuSign lost 3.7% even after the company topped fiscal second-quarter estimates and posted rosy third-quarter guidance. RH dropped 15.6% on soft third-quarter guidance. Both companies reported late Thursday.

Sinéad Carew, Shristi Achar A and Amruta Khandekar of Reuters also report the S&P 500 closes up slightly ahead of US inflation data:
The S&P 500 closed slightly higher on Friday but well below its session high and all three of Wall Street's major averages posted weekly declines as investors worried about interest rates and waited anxiously for upcoming U.S. inflation readings.

Investors worried about rising oil prices and have been fretting ahead of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for August, due out on Sept. 13, seeking signals about the Federal Reserve's likely moves on interest rates.

While traders bet on a roughly 93% probability the Fed keeps rates at current levels after its next meeting ends on Sept. 20., they are pricing in a more divided 53.5% chance for another pause at the November meeting, according to CME group's FedWatch Tool.

Yields on benchmark U.S. 10-year notes were lower, Friday's rise in U.S. 2-year Treasury yields appeared to pressure stocks. David Lefkowitz, head of US Equities at UBS Global Wealth Management, noted investors have been increasingly concerned about rising rates since early August.

"The tone has changed in recent weeks because of the move up in rates. People are questioning whether this is a risk to economic growth. Are higher rates going to lead to some slow down in conjunction with the dwindling of excess consumer savings," said Lefkowitz, who also cited concerns about high valuations in equities.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) rose 75.86 points, or 0.22%, to 34,576.59, the S&P 500 (.SPX) gained 6.35 points, or 0.14%, to 4,457.49 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) added 12.69 points, or 0.09%, to 13,761.53.

For the week, which was shortened by Monday's Labor Day holiday, the S&P 500 fell 1.3%, while the Nasdaq lost 1.9% with both snapping two weeks of gains. The Dow fell 0.8%.

Apple (AAPL) managed a small 0.3% gain on Friday, though its close of $178.18 was about $2 below its session high as a rally lost steam. The iPhone maker fell sharply in the previous two sessions, pushing down the broader technology sector on news that Beijing had banned central government employees from using iPhones at work.

After losing 2.9% in two sessions, the S&P 500 technology sector (XLK) closed higher. But energy (XLE), up 0.97%, boasted the biggest percentage gains among the 11 S&P 500's industry sectors as oil prices rose.

Defensive utilities sector (XLU) had a daily gain of 0.96% while the biggest decliner was real estate (XLRE), which lost 0.63%.

Along with three straight months of gains for crude futures and a positive start to September, this week's economic data also fueled inflation fears. Services activity data came in stronger than expected and weekly jobless claims fell.

"My expectation is that the CPI print could come in higher than expected (with) the price of oil pushing higher," said Phil Blancato, chief executive officer of Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Management.

"We have a problem where ultimately the Fed may be pushed into a corner, and while they might take a pause because of the lag effect, I don't think they're done."

Mixed comments from Fed officials have fueled uncertainty. New York Fed President John Williams kept his options open this week, while Dallas Fed President Lorie Logan said that while it "could be appropriate" to keep rates steady at the next meeting, more tightening might be needed.

In individual stocks, Kroger (KR) closed up 3% after the retailer beat estimates for quarterly adjusted profit.

Gilead Sciences (GILD) added 2.8% after BofA Securities upgraded the drugmaker to "buy" from "neutral."

GameStop (GME) finished down 6% after a report that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating the videogame retailer's chairman, Ryan Cohen.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.14-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.19-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 13 new 52-week highs and 17 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 36 new highs and 229 new lows.

On U.S. exchanges 8.89 billion shares changed hands compared to the 9.96 billion moving average for the last 20 sessions.

And Rich Asplund of Barchart reports stocks post modest gains on hopes for a Fed pause:

The S&P 500 Index ($SPX) (SPY) Friday closed up +0.14%, the Dow Jones Industrials Index ($DOWI) (DIA) closed up +0.22%, and the Nasdaq 100 Index ($IUXX) (QQQ) closed up +0.14%.

Stocks on Friday closed slightly higher. Friday’s strength in crude oil prices boosted energy stocks and the broader market. Stocks also garnered support as expectations improved for a pause in Fed rate hikes on comments late Thursday night from Dallas Fed President Logan, who said, "Another skip in raising interest rates could be appropriate when the FOMC meets later this month.”  Stock indexes fell back from their best levels Friday afternoon when T-note yields moved higher after being lower for most of the session.

Friday’s U.S. economic news was negative for stocks after July consumer credit rose +$10.399 billion, weaker than expectations of +$16.000 billion.

Stocks have some negative carryover from a slide in Asian stock markets on Friday.  Technology stocks were under early pressure on concern China’s ban on Apple’s iPhones could impact other technology companies that rely on sales and production in China. 

A draft from the leaders of G-20 countries meeting in India this weekend warns that “cascading crises” have posed challenges to long-term economic growth and call for coordinated macroeconomic policies to support the world economy.  Also, global economic growth is uneven and below the long-term average as uncertainty on the economic outlook remains high, and the balance of risks is tilted to the downside.

The markets are discounting the odds at 7% for a +25 bp rate hike at the September 20 FOMC meeting and 48% for that +25 bp rate hike at the November 1 FOMC meeting

Global bond yields on Friday were mixed.  The 10-year T-note yield rose +1.2 bp to 4.256%.  The 10-year German bund yield fell -0.4 bp to 2.610%.  The 10-year UK gilt yield fell -3.0 bp to 4.423%. 

Overseas stock markets Friday settled mixed.  The Euro Stoxx 50 closed up +0.38%.  China’s Shanghai Composite Index closed down -0.18%. Japan’s Nikkei Stock Index closed down -1.16%.

Today’s stock movers…

Strength in crude prices Friday lifted energy stocks. Valero Energy (VLO) closed up more than +4%.  Also, Philips 66 (PSX), Marathon Petroleum (MPC), and Marathon Oil (MRO) closed up more than +2%.  In addition, Hess Corp (HES), Exxon Mobil (XOM), and Occidental Petroleum (OXY) closed up more than +1%. 

Regional bank stocks moved higher and lent support to the overall market.  Lincoln National (LNC), KeyCorp (KEY), and Zions Bancorp (ZION) closed up more than +3%.  Also, Comerica (CMA) and M&T Bank (MTB) closed up more than +2%.  In addition, Huntington Bancshares (HBAN), Citizens Financial Group (CFG), Truist Financial (TFC), Northern Trust (NTRS), and US Bancorp (USB) closed up more than +1%.

Kroger (KR) closed up more than +3% after it announced it would sell 413 stores to C&S Wholesale Grocers in a bid to help win antitrust approval for its $24.6 billion deal to merge with Albertsons. 

Gilead Sciences (GILD) closed up more than +2% after Bank of America Global Research upgraded the stock to buy from neutral with a price target of $95. 

Smith & Wesson Brands (SWBI) closed up more than +10% after reporting Q1 net sales of $114.2 million, stronger than the consensus of $100.8 million.   

Smartsheet (SMAR) closed up more than +6% after reporting Q2 adjusted EPS of 16 cents, double the consensus of 8 cents, and raising its 2024 EPS forecast to 53 cents-57 cents from a prior estimate of 37 cents-44 cents, stronger than the consensus of 42 cents. 

Snowflake (SNOW) closed up more than +3% after D.A. Davidson initiated coverage of the stock with a recommendation of buy with a price target of $200. 

Westrock (WRK) closed up more than +4% and extended Thursday’s +3% advance after the Wall Street Journal reported the company is nearing a deal to merge with Smurfit Kappa.

Insulet (PODD) closed down more than -4% Friday to lead losers in the S&P 500, adding to Thursday’s -7% plunge after a New England Journal of Medicine article said the use of semaglutides shots like Ozempic and Wegovy in patients with type 1 diabetes reduces the need for insulin injections.

Boeing (BA) closed down more than -2% to lead losers in the Dow Jones Industrials after it warned that deliveries of its 737 jetliner will come in at the low end of its targeted range this year due to recently discovered manufacturing defects.

Lab tool makers exposed to China retreated on concerns about the impact of China’s anti-corruption crackdown in the healthcare sector.  As a result, Revvity (RVTY) closed down more than -3%.  Also, Bio-Techne (TECH), Danaher (DHR), Bio-Rad Laboratories (BIO), Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO), and Waters Corp (WAT) closed down more than -2%.

RH (RH) closed down more than -15% after forecasting Q3 revenue of $740 million-$760 million, weaker than the consensus of $774 million.

Hudson Pacific Properties (HPP) closed down more than -2% after it suspended its quarterly dividend on its common stock, citing current market conditions. 

Essex Property Trust (ESS) closed down more than -2% after Citigroup downgraded the stock to neutral from buy. 

PDD Holdings (PDD) closed down more than -1% after Grizzly Research said PDD is a dying fraudulent company and its shopping app TEMU is cleverly hidden spyware that poses an urgent security threat to U.S. national interests. 

Across the markets…

December 10-year T-notes (ZNZ23) on Friday closed down -2 ticks, and the 10-year T-note yield rose +1.2 bp to 4.256%.  Dec T-notes Friday gave up an early advance and closed slightly lower.  An increase in inflation expectations weighed on T-note prices after the 10-year inflation breakeven rate rose to a 2-week high Friday at 2.339%.  T-note priced Friday initially moved higher on comments from Dallas Fed President Logan late Thursday night that bolstered expectations for a pause in Fed rate hikes when she said, "Another skip in raising interest rates could be appropriate when the FOMC meets later this month.” 

It's Friday, it was another choppy week in markets and people are starting to get nervous about the lagged effects of rate hikes.

As I stated last Friday, the US slowdown has begun and risk assets are vulnerable as recession clouds gather.

And let there be no mistake, a hard landing awaits the US economy, it will be a deep and prolonged recession and this time isn't different.

Meanwhile oil prices keep climbing and the US faces its lowest total crude inventories in 38 years:

As far as risk assets, if you're paying close attention, macro risks are flashing yellow all over:

Given the heightened risks of a macro event, even if CPI inflation comes in stronger than expected this week, I still see the Fed pausing later this month. 

This week, the Bank of Canada hit the pause button:

It is my contention that all major central banks now want to wait before doing anything because the lagged effects of all those rate hikes are starting to kick in.

No doubt, rising oil prices are not going to help bring inflation down but I think they will all hit the pause button and wait to see what happens next.

If signs of a recession gain momentum, they will wait longer but there are risks to pausing, especially if wage inflation picks up forcing the Fed to resume rate hikes down the road.

One thing I can tell you, if the Fed pauses, stocks might still creep up but if it cuts, watch out below:

In any case, I expect the magnificent rotation out of mega cap tech stocks to continue but I do worry about a credit event blowing up the market as rates creep higher and stay higher for longer:

Alright, let me wrap it up with this week's US large cap gainers and decliners (full list available here):

Below, the slow-moving influence of rising interest rates will end up torpedoing the economy, dashing Federal Reserve expectations that a recession can be avoided, according to renowned Wall Street curmudgeon Jeremy Grantham. This interview for "Bloomberg Wealth with David Rubenstein" was recorded August 17th in Boston.

Next, Leon Cooperman, Omega Family Office chairman and CEO, joins 'Squawk Box' to discuss the S&P's performance in the last year, his thoughts on an upcoming recession, and how the major averages perform in the year's second half.

Third, Jonathan Krinsky, BTIG chief market technician, joins 'Halftime Report' to explain why he believes a significant market downside will be ahead.

Lastly, Bryn Talkington, Steve Weiss, Shannon Saccocia and Jason Snipe join 'Halftime Report' to discuss the seasonally weak month of September and the Fed's next move.