Unexpectedly Intriguing!
February 18, 2020

The U.S. Federal Reserve has something of a love-hate relationship with its latest liquidity injection policy. The Fed keeps having to supply money markets with more and more liquidity, which has contributed to boosting the S&P 500 (Index: SPX) to four new record highs in the last week, but Fed officials are signaling they really want to stop.

That may be why investors appear to now be focusing strongly on 2020-Q4 in setting today's stock prices, as suggested by the dividend futures-based model that underlies our alternative futures spaghetti forecast chart for stock prices:

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2020Q1 - Standard Model - Snapshot on 14 Feb 2020

This brings us to something we missed in the data in the previous edition of our S&P 500 chaos series, where we took a cautious note in reading the week's data:

This is where we have to add a note of caution, because we're dealing with a rapidly evolving situation in the markets. If you look at the alternative futures chart above, if investors shift their attention fully toward 2020-Q3 in setting current day stock prices, the S&P 500 could continue to rise by as much as 250-300 points. But, if China's and the Fed's liquidity injections work to stabilize markets as intended, the FedWatch tool's probability estimates may only have caught investors in the process of shifting their focus more fully back toward 2020-Q4, which is consistent with the S&P 500's recent trajectory, which would also mean that stock prices are within a few percent of where they might go.

What we missed is that the reason investors would now be fixing their focus more tightly on 2020-Q4 in setting current day stock prices is because they are betting that this distant future quarter will see the Fed cut short term interest rates for a second time in 2020. According to the CME Group's FedWatch tool, investors are now giving a 46% probability they will follow a quarter point rate cut in 2020-Q3 with another in 2020-Q4.

CME Group FedWatch Tool Probabilities of Federal Funds Rate Changing at Future FOMC Meeting Dates, Snapshot on 14 February 2020

Consequently, unless the arrival of new information leads investors to alter that expectation, we think the liquidity operations that Fed officials hate will be with us for quite some time longer than they would like.

In any case, here are the more significant market-moving headlines we found in the past week's news stream:

Monday, 10 February 2020
Tuesday, 11 February 2020
Wednesday, 12 February 2020
Thursday, 13 February 2020
Friday, 14 February 2020

Over at the Big Picture, Barry Ritholtz succinctly summarizes all the positives and negatives he found in the past week's economics and market-related news.

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