Markets Usually Don’t Like Uncertainty, But Today They Do

The old maxim about financial market aversion to uncertainty is well known. However, today’s unusually newsworthy release of Fed minutes from January saw markets cheering uncertainty. It seems that the Fed’s “dot plot” indicating two planned rate hikes in 2019 is by no means set in stone (note that previous dot plots indicated three rate hikes in 2019). As I discussed last month, the futures market has been skeptical of the dot plots. That predictive market has been indicating a probability of zero hikes in 2019. Today’s Fed minutes release put the matter to rest (for now) as a majority of the participants are uncertain about any future rate hikes this year. The statement cited an uncertain atmosphere of risks to economic growth and very little concern about inflation. Of course there is a contrarian aspect to all of this: stocks and bonds rallied based on a more pessimistic outlook on the economy. Very significantly, the Fed addressed the “elephant in the room”, their huge balance sheet and its ongoing program to reduce holdings by selling bonds as they mature. Today’s minutes also showed participants broadly agreeing to announce a plan to stop balance sheet reduction later this year. This is a paradigm shift. It seems the Fed is planning on retaining a very large balance sheet on a near permanent basis. All of this helped drive the 10 year T yield down to 2.64%. With fixed rate loan spreads for agency, CMBS, LifeCo, etc ranging from about 130-200 depending on property metrics and leverage, all in rates range from 4.00% to 4.60% approximately. Again, its not too late to lock in historically low fixed rate financing. Stay tuned. By David R. Pascale, Jr. , Senior Vice President at George Smith Partners