Rate Hikes Vs. The Market - When Will It Matter?

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by: Topdown Charts

Summary

It seems the Fed's rate hiking cycle is finally underway in earnest this time.

An alternative view of rates - the shadow policy rate - suggests that we could effectively be later in the hiking cycle than usual, but it's complicated.

On a headline interest rate basis, it's probably too early in the hiking cycle to be getting concerned about rate hikes crashing the market.

Well, it looks like the rate hiking cycle is finally underway in earnest this time, with the March hike making the chart of interest rates look a little more familiar to the previous two hiking cycles, rather than the 1997 one-and-done hike.

I previously highlighted a rule of thumb for when interest rate hikes start to matter for the market, but in this article, we'll take a quick look at how the S&P 500 has previously traded in comparison to the Fed Funds rate by itself (as well as a somewhat unusual indicator known as the shadow rate).

The chart comes from the latest edition of the Weekly Macro Themes and there's a couple of observations to highlight.

First, it usually takes a series of rate hikes before the negative impacts are really felt by the market. Second, it's worth noting that the market usually rallies during the early phase of rate hikes (because rate hikes should be reflecting stronger economic conditions).

But another important observation has to do with the red line. The shadow Fed Funds rate shows that there was already a very significant tightening cycle off the lows in 2013. As a matter of fact, you could probably argue that this stealth or shadow hiking cycle was a key driver of market turmoil in 2015/16 that drove a series of corrections and pushed a couple of sectors into recession. In a way, the 2015/16 period was like a mini-recession or quasi-recession, and that specific "reset" helped pave the way for the new hiking cycle and the renewed bull market that we are seeing now.

It's an important theory because it essentially argues that we are more mid-cycle vs. late-cycle. Basically, the later we are in the cycle, the less gas there is in the tank for market and the economy.

If you think it's unusual, or even that the market environment is unusual, that's because it is! We can still draw lessons from history, but it's an environment that requires flexibility in thinking and approach and one that lends itself to investors who take the path of constant improvement and who look to broaden and build their indicator set.

Thanks for reading.

This article originally appeared here.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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