No data was found
THIS WEEK WITH SADIQ

Why Are Central Banks Stalling on Rate Cuts?

March 11 to 15, 2024

THIS WEEK WITH SADIQ

Why Are Central Banks Stalling on Rate Cuts?

March 11 to 15, 2024

Commentary

Market Recap

  • Equity markets finished mixed this week as the economic data and central bank chatter continued to suggest that rate cuts are coming. Soon. Promise.
  • The S&P 500 dipped 0.3%, with gains in banks and utilities offset by weakness in technology and consumer discretionary. The TSX outperformed, gaining 0.9% on the back of materials (i.e., gold) and strength in utilities and banks.
  • Both the S&P 500 and TSX pushed new 52-week highs this week before dipping on Friday, and both are still running along above their 50- and 200-day moving averages.

Interest Rates

Recently, central banks have been sending mixed signals—the Bank of Canada (BoC) is holding interest rates steady despite a weakening economy, the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) has said it will hold rates higher for longer but has also indicated that cuts are likely coming this year, the European Central Bank (ECB) is standing firm, and now the Bank of Japan may choose to raise rates. How can we untangle this knot? These contradictions are why we expected more volatility this year—communication is fuzzy and every central bank meeting seems to be a “live” meeting, with no particular outcome preordained. As a result, markets are on edge every time an announcement comes around, with the only near-certainty being that rate hikes from the Fed and BoC are over. But markets are surprised that central banks have been unwilling to give a clearer indication of when we might see rate cuts. The Fed has emphasized that inflation has not yet reached a level where they’re comfortable lowering rates. But the BoC—who many believe should cut before the Fed given the weaker Canadian economy—also hasn’t provided clarity on timing. The chance that inflation could spike back up is North American central banks’ main concern. In our view, however, lowering rates slowly should be fine because consumer perceptions about borrowing costs and inflation won’t change overnight. Also, some of the causes of inflation are out of central banks’ control, and those effects are likely to diminish over time.

Bottom Line: Predictions of a ‘soft landing’ for the economy have largely proven correct—now, central banks should be focused on how to prevent it from becoming something worse.

Consumers

Periodically, it’s worth checking in on the state of the consumer, and right now, we’re seeing a continuation of previous trends. The consumer’s strength is gradually declining—savings and discretionary income are weakening and delinquencies on loans are increasing, which are not ideal signs, but by no means is the consumer in critical condition. People are using their credit cards more and leaning on their debt—they might not be paying off their entire balance each month, for instance. But while some consumer spending patterns have shifted, spending overall has largely continued. On the jobs front, the “quit rate” is coming down, meaning that people are switching jobs less frequently, but the number of open positions remains high. That’s preventing unemployment from picking up, and is further proof that the economy is cooling. Over time, higher interest rates and lower wage increases (the result of inflation coming down) are likely to impact the consumer. But for now, we aren’t seeing anything that worries us too much.

Bottom Line: The consumer is weakening, but not yet weak.

Oil

What’s the latest on oil prices? OPEC continues to make comments about wanting to restrict oil production to a particular level, and while not all members will follow, this at least provides us with some guidance on supply. Our view is that oil is likely approaching fair value—previously, we’ve said that $80-$90 per barrel is the sweet spot, and the price of WTI Crude is currently hovering in the high-$70s range. That doesn’t necessarily mean that oil stocks can’t go up. From what we’ve seen, they appear to be under-invested and earnings seems fairly good, so there is likely still some untapped value in oil-related equities, though perhaps not as much as a year ago. Back then, the dynamics were more favourable—people underestimated supply and overestimated the probability for recession. That’s no longer the case.

Bottom Line: Oil prices are getting close to fair value, and Energy is a sector worth monitoring.

Positioning

For a detailed breakdown of our portfolio positioning, check out the latest BMO GAM House View Report, titled The American Exception: How U.S. Markets Beat the Bears…Again.

Disclosures:

The viewpoints expressed by the Portfolio Manager represents their assessment of the markets at the time of publication. Those views are subject to change without notice at any time without any kind of notice. The information provided herein does not constitute a solicitation of an offer to buy, or an offer to sell securities nor should the information be relied upon as investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This communication is intended for informational purposes only.


BMO Global Asset Management is a brand name under which BMO Asset Management Inc. and BMO Investments Inc. operate.


Any statement that necessarily depends on future events may be a forward-looking statement. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of performance. They involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions. Although such statements are based on assumptions that are believed to be reasonable, there can be no assurance that actual results will not differ materially from expectations. Investors are cautioned not to rely unduly on any forward-looking statements. In connection with any forward-looking statements, investors should carefully consider the areas of risk described in the most recent simplified prospectus.


This article is for information purposes. The information contained herein is not, and should not be construed as, investment, tax or legal advice to any party. Investments should be evaluated relative to the individual’s investment objectives and professional advice should be obtained with respect to any circumstance.


Commissions, management fees and expenses (if applicable) all may be associated with investments in mutual funds. Trailing commissions may be associated with investments in certain series of securities of mutual funds. Please read the fund facts, ETF facts or prospectus of the relevant mutual fund before investing. Mutual funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated. Distributions are not guaranteed and are subject to change and/or elimination.


For a summary of the risks of an investment in the BMO Mutual Funds, please see the specific risks set out in the prospectus. ETF Series of the BMO Mutual Funds trade like stocks, fluctuate in market value and may trade at a discount to their net asset value, which may increase the risk of loss. Distributions are not guaranteed and are subject to change and/or elimination.


BMO Mutual Funds are managed by BMO Investments Inc., which is an investment fund manager and a separate legal entity from Bank of Montreal.


®/™Registered trademarks/trademark of Bank of Montreal, used under licence.

Insights

House view
April 16, 2024

Delayed again: The soft landing that never comes

The view from 10,000 feet is that the economy is still in fairly good shape. That said, it is important to understand that we are beginning to see more signs of underlying economic weakness.
Sadiq Adatia
Sadiq Adatia
Commentary
April 15, 2024

Jerome Powell Was Right

Given recent inflation numbers, are markets resetting rate cut expectations, and is a soft landing is still possible? How will the state of the consumer impact earnings season?
Sadiq Adatia
Sadiq Adatia
Commentary
April 8, 2024

Total Eclipse of the Fed

What do Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s recent comments mean for the interest rate outlook? And what impact are they having on equity and fixed income markets?
Sadiq Adatia
Sadiq Adatia
Commentary
April 1, 2024

The Supply Chain Problem Rears its Ugly Head

How will supply chain disruptions caused by the Baltimore bridge collapse and conflict in the Middle East impact inflation? Do continuing problems in China’s property sector affect the country’s long-term growth outlook?
Sadiq Adatia
Sadiq Adatia
Commentary
March 25, 2024

Reddit Goes Public: A Good Omen for the IPO Market?

Were Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s comments as dovish as markets thought? With the Magnificent Seven driving markets, where can investors go if they’re looking to diversify?
Young woman doing paper work on the coach.
Young woman doing paper work on the coach.
Commentary
March 25, 2024

The True Liquidity of an ETF

ETF trading volume concerns? Rest assured, selling when needed is feasible. Discover the hidden layers of ETF liquidity beyond surface volume data

Website attestation

You are entering the BMO Global Asset Management (GAM) Institutional website.

Read our Terms and Conditions
Click here to contact us

This information is for Investment Advisors only. By accepting, you certify that you are an Investment Advisor. If you are NOT an Investment Advisor, please decline and view the content in the Investor or Institutional areas of the site. The website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide a complete description of BMO Global Asset Management’s products or services. Past performance is not indicative of future results. It should not be construed as investment advice or relied upon in making an investment decision. The opinions expressed are subject to change without notice. Products and services of BMO Global Asset Management are only offered in jurisdictions where they may be lawfully offered for sale. The information contained in this website does not constitute an offer or solicitation by anyone to buy or sell any investment fund or other product, service or information to anyone in any jurisdiction in which an offer or solicitation is not authorized or cannot be legally made or to any person to whom it is unlawful to make an offer of solicitation. All products and services are subject to the terms of each and every applicable agreement. It is important to note that not all products, services and information are available in all jurisdictions outside Canada.