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Is inflation really peaking? Are consumers increasingly confident? We’ll have those answers this week when the latest consumer and producer price indices and retail sales figures for August are all released.
The figures could change the calculation of the Federal Reserve, which is guaranteed to raise interest rates again at its next policy meeting on September 21. The question is how much?
Traders are still predicting another three-quarters of a percentage point rise, or 75 basis points, the third consecutive move of this size. And Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said last week that “the Fed has, and accepts, responsibility for price stability. We must act now. »
But could the odds of another massive rate hike diminish if inflation data continues to suggest that “price stability” might finally be closer to reality? Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures will be released on Tuesday morning while Producer Price Index (PPI) figures will be released on Wednesday.
Keep in mind that at the end of July, the market was only pricing in a 28% chance of a 75 basis point rally in September. Investors now believe there is an 88% chance of another big upside, according to federal funds futures traded on the CME.
Economists currently expect consumer prices in August to decline slightly from July, and prices are up 8.1% over the past 12 months. Of course, 8.1% is still incredibly high by historical standards, but that would be a noticeable slowdown from the 9.1% year-over-year price surge in June.
“We have probably seen the peak of inflation. Food and energy prices are falling. There is more room on the downside,” said Joe Kalish, chief global macroeconomic strategist at Ned Davis Research.
Investors seem to be grudgingly accepting the likelihood of the Fed raising rates another 75 basis points in a few weeks…regardless of what the August inflation data indicates.
But traders are hoping September’s rate hike will be the last of such magnitude. Assuming the Fed raises rates by three-quarters of a point on September 21, this would bring interest rates back to a target range of 3% to 3.25%.
Look at Federal Funds futures on the CME for November. At noon on Friday, investors were pricing in a 70% chance of a half-point hike at the Nov. 2 Fed meeting… within a range of 3.5% to 3.75%.
There was only a 10% chance of a fourth consecutive 75 basis point increase, however, which could be one of the reasons stocks have rebounded so far in September after falling in august.
Wall Street is clearly betting that inflation trends will continue to move in the right direction. Economists also expect producer prices, or the cost of goods at the wholesale level, to decline slightly in August. Forecasts call for a drop of 0.1% from July to August, after a drop of 0.5% from June to July.
Producer prices jumped 9.8% year-on-year in July, but that’s down from June’s high of 11.3%. Any further slowdown would likely be welcomed by the market, the Fed and consumers.
This brings us to retail sales. Consumer spending figures for August are due Thursday morning. The government announced last month that retail sales rose 10.3% year-on-year in July. It will be interesting to see if this rate of sales accelerated in August or if it slowed down.
The Fed is in a difficult situation. He wants to calm inflationary pressures and the way to do that is to raise interest rates dramatically. But the Fed would also like to avoid a recession if it can, which is why some are still hoping for a soft, or “soft” landing for the economy, as Powell said in May.
Powell also spoke about rate hikes and inflation causing “some pain” to the economy during his speech in Jackson Hole last month. This could be an argument for the Fed to make smaller rate hikes…as long as inflation continues to subside.
And this is the key point. Investors need to pay more attention to inflation data than what Powell or other Fed members are saying. The Fed remains dependent on data, which is why the odds of a rate hike are constantly changing.
“There must be a convincing downward trend in inflation. We’re not there yet,” David Donabedian, chief investment officer of CIBC Private Wealth US, said in a report on Friday.
The economy isn’t the only thing in the spotlight next week. Two software giants, Oracle (ORCL) and Adobe (ADBE), will publish their latest results. Investors will be on the lookout for clues about the state of technology spending by big companies.
Shares of both companies have fallen this year, along with the rest of the tech sector and the market in general. Oracle is down almost 15% while Adobe plunged more than 30%.
But analysts expect solid sales growth from both companies…nearly 15% for Adobe from a year ago and an increase of nearly 20% for Oracle.
An investment strategist said big tech companies like Oracle and Adobe make sense for investors.
“We have big tech that is much more mature and established,” said Suzanne Hutchins, head of real returns strategy and senior portfolio manager at Newton Investment Management.
The results from Oracle and Adobe will also serve as a preview for the deluge of third-quarter tech earnings that will arrive later in October. Strong results from these two could be a good sign for Microsoft (MSFT), SAP (SAP), IBM (IBM) and other cloud software companies.
Still, recent earnings from Salesforce (CRM), which was cautious about its forecast, could be a warning sign for both companies, according to Daniel Morgan, senior portfolio manager at Synovus Trust Company. Oracle and Adobe could also be affected by the soaring dollar, as it will reduce profits from their international operations.
“Both companies generate more than 40% of sales outside the United States,” Morgan noted in a report.
Monday: Chinese markets closed; Oracle revenue
Tuesday: US CPI; Starbucks Investor Day (SBUX); Twitter (TWTR) shareholders meeting to vote on Elon Musk acquisition
Wednesday: American PPI
Thursday: US retail sales; weekly jobless claims in the United States; meeting between Russian Vladimir Putin and Chinese Xi Jinping; Adobe revenue
Friday: consumer sentiment in the U. from Michigan to the United States; Retail Sales, Unemployment and Other Economic Data in China