Unexpectedly Intriguing!
22 April 2024
An editorial cartoon of a bear with a sign that says 'NO RATE CUTS' scaring Wall Street traders.

The S&P 500 (Index: SPX) fell again durin ghte third week of April 2024. The index closed out the week at 4,967.23, a little over three percent below the level it closed the second week. The index has dropped 5.5% below its record peak closing value from 28 March 2024.

The main driving force behind the falling level of stock prices are slipping expectations for when and by how much the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates during 2024. The CME Group's FedWatch Tool anticipates the Fed will hold the Federal Funds Rate steady in a target range of 5.25-5.50% until 18 September (2024-Q3) when a quarter point reduction is expected, some twelve weeks longer than expected just a week earlier. The tool also projects only one rate cut in 2024, the timing of which is looking uncertain.

As we illustrated in a separate analysis, that slipping timing is reducing the expected level of dividends in future quarters. Right now, we think investors have been scared by the "no rate cut" bear into shifting their forward-looking focus to either 2024-Q3 or 2024-Q4, with their investment time horizon being affected by the sliding expectations for when the Fed might alter the level of short term interest rates in the U.S.

We're basing that hypothesis on the level the dividend futures-based model is projecting the potential level of the S&P 500 will be a month from now as we're within the month-long window in which its projections have "locked in". The latest update for the alternative futures chart shows the current level of the index is consistent with the model's still-dynamic projections outside of the locked-in period:

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2024Q2 - Standard Model (m=+1.5 from 9 March 2023) - Snapshot on 19 Apr 2024

An alternate explanation is the stock market is experiencing a regime change, in which the dividend futures-based model's basic multiplier has changed, but we would need several more weeks of data to confirm if that is the case. We're weighing these scenarios behind the scenes, where we haven't yet seen sufficient data to determine the established value of the multiplier has definitively broken from the level it has held since 9 March 2023.

In the meantime, the context provided by the market-moving headlines of the week points to that market regime still holding. The week's headlines point to the rapidly slipping expected timing of rate cuts in 2024, which continued in the past week, as the continuing culprit in the decline of stock prices during the last several weeks.

Monday, 15 April 2024
Tuesday, 16 April 2024
Wednesday, 17 April 2024
Thursday, 18 April 2024
Friday, 19 April 2024

The Atlanta Fed's GDPNow tool's latest estimate of real GDP growth for the first quarter of 2024 (2024-Q1) rose to +2.9% from the +2.4% growth forecast last week.

Image credit: Microsoft Bing Image Creator. Prompt: "An editorial cartoon of a bear with a sign that says 'NO RATE CUTS' scaring Wall Street traders"

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