As the sell-off of stocks intensified into late September 2022, the S&P 500 lost all gains from the previous calendar year in September 2021. Coupled with an annual slump of 24% – the lowest since November 2020 – many were quick to point out the likelihood of a short-term bear market rally. This wasn’t (and isn’t) unjustified at all. During inflationary periods, as we entered this year by definition after two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth, current stock market trends seemed to point to a classic “bottoming out”. An asset that has “bottomed out” reached its low point and could be in the early stages of trending upward. That’s the real question most investors are asking. Given all the global financial market dynamics that have been putting downward pressure on prices, are they ready to rebound? Will it be a short-term bear market? Will there be any noticeable rebound at all? What are the chances of a long-term bear market cycle? These are all questions investors are keen on getting more insight into daily.
How Are Financial Markets Looking for the Remainder of Q4 2022?
Shaky and unpredictable, at best. Specifically looking back at the S&P 500 trends, October, like September, tends to be a comparatively volatile month. This is coming off a year where more than half the trading days saw movements above or below 1%, indicating high general volatility.
Before we get to the Fed policy, let’s quickly mention something many people are overlooking; current problems plaguing the UK. When we’re talking about the general trend of global financial markets, the US and UK generally follow similar patterns. In 2008, when the US recession hit, did the UK not feel the impact too? Ominously, the UK has already been in recession for a full year. Furthermore, S&P Global is predicting a “tough winter” for EU markets. Add that to the ongoing currency crises the GBP and EUR are currently experiencing and one would not be out of line at all to believe that the UK, as well as struggling countries in the EU, will fall into an even deeper recession. Surely – if that were to happen – it would obviously not bode well for US financial markets.
But more realistically, actions taken by the Fed regarding inflationary concerns are what investors are eyeing more closely. Let’s take a deeper look at the Fed’s policy to combat inflation and how that’s impacting financial markets.
The Fed’s Continuously Shifting Narrative on Inflation
It’s important to first point out the Fed’s inflation narrative and, accordingly, their policy has shifted dramatically the past year. In fact, just last year Fed officials said inflation “wouldn’t be a problem”. Shortly later, the Fed promised us it would be “transitory” inflation. Now, they’re shifting to a “soft landing” inflation for the economy, amidst hiked up rates and economic downturn. As evidence of the deflationary attempts being rejected mounts, the Fed will undoubtably continue to move the bar.
Why is that concerning for financial markets and moreover, market participants? Generally – intuitively, this should be especially true during times of economic uncertainty – investors often look to the Fed for guidance. Meaning, the majority of market participants will react to news from the Fed in real time. Even more specifically, they’ll take a bearish or bullish position based on what the Fed is saying at that time. David Schassler, Head of Quantitative Investment Solutions for VanEck, noted the same.
But what’s more concerning is that even the Fed knows, for deflation to be successful, there also has to be a drop in demand. It doesn’t appear, nor is anyone really reporting, that there is any drop in demand. That’s starting to have – quite significant at that – ramifications on the global supply chain. Regardless of the reason – it could be the “COVID-10 lockdowns” J.P. Morgan hypothesized – at this point we know we are heading towards a global supply chain “crisis”. On top of a potentially botched deflation, we could see increased – rather than decreased – demand meet supply shortages, which would equal very rapid, upward prices until demand swings back down. Factoring back in how shaky the global economy looks at present, I think it’s extremely difficult to confidently say we’re definitely not going to have a financial crisis-like recession sometime in 2023. As many have said, time will tell.
Conclusion for Q4 2022
Concisely, we’re likely entering even darker waters than we’ve been in. That goes for capital markets, equities, indices, and related securities. Savvy investors will start looking at alternative investment products, while at-risk assets continue to have a negative long-term outlook. During times of financial uncertainty, investments in real estate (physical assets, more broadly) are usually a better value risk. High-value commodities, like gold, are known to do well in recessions (no, not Blockchain technology). High-value commodities such as gold in general are a quintessential hedge against a deflating dollar (USD) value.
While we want to make it abundantly clear if there is a bear market, we expect it to be a short-term bounce back. To reiterate, the long-term macroeconomic outlook right now looks bleak. However, we also don’t want to give the incorrect impression that we are predicting a 2008-like financial collapse. Many have speculated that today’s CDOs are the mid-late 2000’s MBS products that led to the widespread 2008 financial collapse, however the comparison is a false equivalency.
The safeguards we’ve put in place since 2008 prevent the kind of collapse we witnessed during that time. We have new volatility ratios that dual-acting (depository/investment) banks must strictly maintain. We have new regulatory reporting and compliance procedures banks have entire departments of staff dedicated to. The biggest investment banks in the world have literally thousands of dedicated employees specifically for regulatory reporting and compliance projects. My genuine belief is most active market observers understand we’re smart enough to learn from 2008 and avoid a repeat.
However – needless to say – we’re still imperfect. With the way the global financial system now operates, there can only be winners if there are also losers. That dynamic is becoming more apparent at an upward trajectory. The biggest winners are becoming bigger (wealthier) and the biggest losers are becoming poorer. Interestingly, according to Fox, the last few recessions have statistically benefitted the “rich of the rich”.