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Bond and Stock Markets Rally on Cooler Than Expected CPI on “Pivot” Hopes

This morning’s October CPI report: Core CPI increased 0.3% for the month (0.5% expected), overall CPI is 0.4% (0.6% expected). Annual CPI is at 7.7% (7.9% expected and down from the June high of 9.1%). Relief rally: 10-Year Treasury dropped to 3.84%, down from a 4.12% opening; a big intraday move and below the psychologically significant 4.00% level. It’s interesting to note that the major fixed and floating rate lending indices are converging – 30 Day Term SOFR is 3.79%. The Dow jumped 850 points within hours. Fed futures “softened”:  85% chance of a 50 bp increase at next month’s meeting, 15% chance of a 75 bp increase. Yesterday it was 56% for 50 bps, 44% for 75 bps. One report does not “fix” inflation, but markets are ultra sensitive to trending data and anticipation. The rally is big as it assuages the fear that has emerged in recent weeks regarding the great Fed questions regarding the eventual terminal rate or peak rate: “How high and how long? Recent comments by Fed Chair Powell and other officials suggested the terminal rate may need to be 5.00% or higher to tame inflation. Today’s report provides a “hopeful path” to a lower peak and shorter time there.

Inside the numbers: Prices for “core goods” (homes, used cars, appliances, apparel) have been softening for months, while services costs have spiked. Today’s report indicated medical services prices fell 0.6%, benefitting from the “annual reset” methodology employed by the Labor Department. Another lagging indicator that should start showing softer price increases is shelter. Zillow, CoreLogic, RealPage and Apartment List have all indicated apartment rents (for new leases) softening nationwide over the past 2-3 months. It will take a couple more months for that to be figured into CPI, which counts “renters at large”- aka all tenants. Markets don’t want a repeat of the optimistic rallies as core CPI dropped steadily from April to June, but then leveled off in July and spiked in August and September- which sent rates soaring. Therefore, next month’s CPI report release on December 13, followed by the year’s final Fed meeting the next day is looming very large. Stay tuned…

By David R. Pascale, Jr., Senior Vice President at George Smith Partners