September 2023 – Monthly Commentary

The minutes of the September 19-20 FOMC seemed to reflect the committee members’ belief that they’re in the process of achieving the first ever economic “soft-landing.” Comments from the minutes included “Bank credit conditions appeared to tighten somewhat…but credit to businesses and households remained generally accessible,” and “The imbalance between labor supply and demand appeared to be easing.” As expected, the text echoed the answers delivered by Chairman Powell at the post-meeting press conference. There is a chance of one more rate hike this year and that rates will be held at an elevated level for an extended period. In short it read as though the committee was taking a victory lap for their engineering of a soft landing. Bond investors were delighted by the verbiage as witnessed in the collapse of the yield curve. The yield on the 10-year note fell to 4.55% on the day.

Halyard’s Weekly Wrap – 10/6/23

Way back in July we wrote that the BLS non-farm payroll report told a far different story than the private ADP employment report, with the former quadrupling the latter. That situation has risen again, only in reverse. The ADP report showed tepid job growth of 89,000 in September while the BLS reported 336,000 for the period, double the number expected. Moreover, the revision of the prior two months added another 119,000 jobs to the economy. While excellent news for the economy it’s likely to put another Fed rate hike back into play at the November 1st meeting. That may not be necessary as Former Fed Governor Kevin Warsh wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion article this week. He points out that while the Fed Funds rate is 0.5% higher since mid-May, the 10-year note yield, which is the benchmark for mortgage rates and corporate borrowing is 1.4% higher, and that is going to cause a significant bite to the economy. We whole-heartedly agree that both are going to slow the economy. Warsh correctly states that the 10-year is the benchmark for housing, but the short-term rate is the benchmark for bank debt, which typically is lower rated and carries a floating rate; to put it plainly, rising short rates are hurting lower-rated credits.