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  • Writer's pictureKevin O'Reilly

Inflation Continues to Cool Ahead of FOMC's Final Meeting of 2023. Are Rate Cuts Ahead?

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

Originally posted on LinkedIn, director of multifamily investment, Kevin O'Reilly provides an economic update following the release of several key data readings.


 

The past week was an important one for US macroeconomic updates, with the release of several key data prints. Investors & developers of commercial real estate are paying close attention to the week’s readings in advance of the Federal Reserve’s final meeting of 2023, which is due to take place on Dec. 12-13.


Last Tuesday, consumer confidence data showed an improvement through November. The Conference Board’s index rose to 102 for the month, higher than a downwardly revised 99.1 from October and ahead of the Dow Jones estimate of 101.


Fresh inflation insights were obtained on Thursday via the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The core PCE price index continued to cool and advanced 3.5 percent on a year-on-year basis in October, the smallest rise since April 2021, after increasing 3.7 percent in September.


According to the Labor Department, initial weekly jobless claims rose to 218,000, an increase of 7,000 from the previous period though slightly below the 220,000 estimate. Continuing claims, which run a week behind, surged to 1.93 million. This reflects an increase of 86,000 - the highest level since Nov. 27, 2021.


Following these releases, Fed governor, Christopher Waller said “I am encouraged by the early signs of moderating economic activity in the fourth quarter based on the data in hand,” he also added, “inflation is still too high, and it is too early to say whether the slowing we are seeing will be sustained.”


The expectation and overwhelming consensus on Wall Street is that the Fed will leave rates unchanged at the final meeting of the year. The Fed raised its benchmark overnight rate from nearly zero in March 2022 to a range between 5.25 and 5.5 percent, with the last rate hike occurring in July. Investors have increasingly come to expect that its next move would be to cut rates. Current futures market pricing suggests the first rate cut coming next May. However, with geopolitical tensions evolving in Ukraine and the Middle East and many economic readings to come in Q1 2024, future economic performance will determine next steps by the Fed before any rate cuts occur next year.


On Friday, Chair of the Fed, Jerome Powell dispelled market expectations for any aggressive interest rate cuts ahead. Despite Powell’s comments to “keep policy restrictive”, the volatile 10-year Treasury yield is trending lower, currently at 4.245%, while the rate on the 2-year Treasury is at 4.608%.



The yield curve measuring the variance between yields on U.S. 2-year and 10-year Treasury notes has narrowed its inversion. An inversion of this part of the curve is viewed by many as a reliable signal that a recession is likely to follow in one to two years. Interestingly, the yield curve has been reducing its inversion moving closer to flatlining as the markets begin to price in the end of the Fed's tightening cycle with likely rate cuts on the horizon.


Instead of a recession, the consensus forecast now is that the US economy is headed for a “soft landing,” with disinflation paving the way for some interest-rate reductions from the Fed by the end of Spring 2024. As borrowing costs move lower, there will be more room for savvy investors to make sense of deals and a likelihood that CRE transactional activity improves by mid-2024.



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