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Wall Street Reacts to Powell on 2023 Fed Pivot

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s message to investors was short and blunt: The central bank will likely keep raising interest rates and leave them elevated for some time to battle inflation. 

In a speech of less than 10 minutes delivered at the Kansas City Fed’s annual policy forum in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Powell warned that “restoring price stability will likely require maintaining a restrictive policy stance for some time.” 

“The historical record cautions strongly against prematurely loosening policy,” he added. 

Markets got the message: “This was a very clear pushback on market expectations of a pivot from the Fed in 2023,” said Brian Coulton, chief economist at Fitch Ratings. “This means taking rates above neutral through more outsize hikes in coming meetings and then holding them there for some time — likely through the whole of next year.”

Stocks tumbled while yields across the US Treasury curve climbed as markets digested what higher-for-longer rates might mean for this year — and next. 

Here’s what other strategists said after Powell’s remarks: 

Win Thin, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co:

“That was short and straight to the point. No doubts should remain that the Fed is nowhere close to stopping its drive to lower inflation. Swaps market is pricing in higher odds of a 4% terminal rate and I think that is likely to continue. It’s no coincidence that Fed officials keep bringing up Paul Volcker — the implications are clear.”

Jeffrey Roach, LPL Financial chief economist:

“In a speech of just 1,300 words, Powell says ‘price stability’ nine times and he builds the case that a strong labor market is predicated on price stability. In essence, Powell is clearly stating that right now, fighting inflation is more important than supporting growth.”

 Quincy Krosby, chief global market strategist at LPL Financial: 

“The initial knee-jerk reaction came from the algorithms. Now traders are back to where they thought Powell would go this morning — underscoring price stability and the path to get there.”

Jake Jolly, senior investment strategist at BNY Mellon Investment Management:

“The market was set up for a hawkish, ‘stick to the script’ speech, and the initial impression is that that is exactly what Chair Powell delivered. And it took just over 8 minutes. He closed the door on the idea of a near-term pivot, highlighting that a key history lesson is that policy must avoid loosening too early. Bottom line: rates need to keep going up until they’re firmly in restrictive territory. And then they need to stay there.”

Kevin Simpson, founder of Capital Wealth Planning:

“It does give validity to the more hawkish people on the Fed that sometimes get overlooked because the chairman will have a more dovish approach or a different interpretation,” he said. “This validates a lot of what we heard yesterday from Fed governor after Fed governor, explaining that this is a real priority, they’re taking it seriously and they’re going to do what they need to for as long as it takes to accomplish the goal, which is bringing down inflation.”

Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank:

“The focus of this speech is clear: INFLATION and PRICE STABILITY. He has been very clear that the Fed’s primary goal is to bring inflation down, even if it means pain for households and companies in the process.”

“He has been also very clear that the pace of rate increases will slow at some point, and steady, but it’s clear that cutting rates is nowhere in Powell’s plans right now.”

Dennis DeBusschere, founder of 22V Research: 

“This is not game-changing hawkish. At all.”

“His comments are just making it clear that inflation still needs to slow and they will continue to push back against easier financial conditions until mission accomplished — or they think mission accomplished.”

April LaRusse, head of investment specialists at Insight Investments:

“Powell’s comments were in line with what we expected. In contrast to the 2021 Jackson Hole speech where inflation was thought to be transient this time the focus was on getting inflation under control even at the expense of inflicting short term pain on the economy. His comments regarding the need to potentially keep rates high for some time indicated that the market is mistaken in trying to price in rate cuts as soon as late 2023.”

Zachary Hill, head of portfolio management at Horizon Investments:

“Today’s speech from Powell did nothing to change the fact that the market and the Fed see the economic outlook evolving differently in the future.”

Bryce Doty, senior vice president at Sit Investment Associates:

“Hard to believe the Fed’s ‘Damn the Torpedoes’ approach toward thinking the key to stopping inflation is to raise rates enough to destroy jobs. Just means shortages will continue. The labor might be considered strong but it’s certainly not healthy.”

James Athey, investment director at Aberdeen Asset Management:

I “suspect that he has learned from the mistake made during the July meeting press conference where he opened the door to a pivot too early at this juncture. Of course the irony in all this is that they are backward looking and policy operates with a lag. So it wouldn’t take much in the way of lower inflation and/or weaker growth for this message to quickly look somewhat stale.”

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