Unexpectedly Intriguing!
August 19, 2019

For a week where the full U.S. Treasury yield curve inverted as stock prices were quite volatile, the week didn't end all that much differently than the previous week did.

By the end of the week, the S&P 500 (Index: SPX) was about one percentage point lower than a week earlier, as investors continued splitting their forward-looking attention betweeen 2019-Q4 and 2020-Q1. And while investors flirted with focusing more closely on 2019-Q4 during the week, there wasn't enough in the news to shift it more fully onto that particular point of time in the future.

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2019Q3 - Standard Model - Snapshot on 16 Aug 2019

At this point, investors are betting the Federal Reserve will be forced to act aggressively to cut short term interest rates in a bid to revert the yield curve, with the CME Group's FedWatch Tool now projecting as many as four quarter point rate cuts in the four quarters ahead:

CME Group FedWatch Tool Probabilities of Federal Funds Rate Changing at Future FOMC Meeting Dates, Snapshot on 16 August 2019

We think the uncertainty of the timing of rate cuts between 2019-Q4 and 2020-Q1 is what is holding investors' attention on these two future quarters for now, but the potential deterioration of economic circumstances that would lead to the increased probability of rate cuts extending into 2020-Q2 could spark a much more negative reaction in stock prices should investors have reason to really focus on that particular future quarter.

There's also the potential that changes in the expectations for dividends in any of these upcoming quarters will have an impact on stock prices as well. Fortunately, dividend futures have so far been largely stable, where much of the outsized volatility we've seen may be attributed to investors shifting their time horizons in setting their expectations.

That's why we make a point of tracking the market moving headlines each week, which we've presented below. The random onset of new information plays a large role in setting the forward-looking focus of investors.

Monday, 12 August 2019
Tuesday, 13 August 2019
Wednesday, 14 August 2019
Thursday, 15 August 2019
Friday, 16 August 2019

Looking for the bigger picture of the week's news than the headlines we've noted above? Barry Ritholtz lists seven positives and only five negatives in the week's economics and market-related news.

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