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Cool PCE Report, Dovish Fed Remarks, Treasury Rally Continues

Today’s PCE release indicated monthly core PCE increasing 0.2%, which puts the 3-month annualized average at 2.4%. That’s getting closer to the Fed’s target of 2.0% (remember this average was over 7.0% in mid-2022). The 10-year had another big week of moves. Starting at about 4.50% on Monday, rallying to 4.25% yesterday and up to 4.32% this morning.

Hawkish and influential Fed Governor Waller moved markets this week as he is “confident that policy is positioned to…get inflation back to 2%.” The “higher for longer” narrative that dominated the recent months has receded. Waller added he could imagine the Fed lowering rates after seeing continuing disinflation over the next 3 months. Watching the data (labor market, consumer strength), continuing jobless claims hit a 2-year high, and big Black Friday retail sales were aided by a big increase in “buy now pay later” purchase plans. Inside the PCE data, goods were down 0.3%, and services were up 0.2%.

Fed Futures markets indicate no rate increase at next month’s meeting. That will mark 3 straight pauses and (hopefully) mark this as the “pause before the pivot.” July was the last rate increase and the last few tightening cycles have averaged about 9 months between the last increase and the first cut. Could the pivot come at the May 2024 meeting? 150 days from now, but who’s counting?…

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