All eyes were on the release of the most recent inflation data this week. Both the CPI and PPI came in better than expected as inflation continues to cool. Consumer prices rose 4.9% year-over-year, the smallest rise in two years, but still well above the Fed’s target of 2%. The Producer Price index was much better than expected with year-over-year final demand inflation registering 2.3%. Be forewarned though; producer prices have a low predictability of the direction of consumer prices.
With volatility still at a heightened level from the failure of Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank, and First Republic, we thought it would be an opportune time to discuss how we’ve positioned our Reserve Cash Management strategy (RCM). As the name implies, the RCM is a separately managed account strategy designed to generate returns in excess of the money market universe with a somewhat similar risk profile.
The short-maturity fixed income landscape is vastly different than last year. Namely, the overnight lending rate corridor is 5.0% to 5.25% and we’re likely at the peak of that rate for this cycle. Moreover, the Fed Funds futures market is anticipating that the Fed will cut the overnight rate later this year and will ultimately take the Fed Funds rate below 3.00%.
Ted Lasso encourages his players to “Be a Goldfish” because the animal only has a 10 second memory. We think the Federal Reserve is taking this advice literally.
The most consequential story of the week came out on Tuesday, the day before the FOMC announcement. The Treasury Buyers Advisory Committee (TBAC) released the minutes of their quarterly meeting with the Treasury Department. The TBAC is a high-level group of money center banks and Treasury bond buyers that meets with Treasury officials quarterly to discuss operations of the Treasury bond market. The Treasury asked the TBAC what the tolerance would be for Treasury buying back bonds in the open market. We were floored! The current environment in which we find ourselves can be laid entirely at the foot of the Federal Reserve and the irresponsible monetary policy it has pursued. That they are even considering resuming market manipulation is unspeakable.
The first look at Q1 GDP offered something for everyone. The headline number presented quarter-over-quarter growth of 1.1%, below the expected 1.9%. The obvious takeaway is that economic activity is weakening as the U.S. slowly slips toward recessionary territory. But we would argue that, while that may be true, activity in Q1 was not as bad as that first look. The BLS measures GDP on a quarter-over-quarter basis, which makes no sense, as the final quarter of the year is always the most robust. To adjust for that, the BLS seasonally adjusts the number to achieve a smoothing effect. We prefer, instead, to compare the economic activity on a year-over-year basis. From that perspective, Q1 GDP registered 1.6% over the GDP reported for Q1 2022 – Better than the reported Q/Q 1.1% headline. However, Q1 2022 grew 3.7% over Q1 2021.