January 2020 FOMC Meeting: What The Fed Decision Means

fomc meeting

Market expectations going into tonight’s FOMC meeting were largely for an unchanged policy outcome and for the December message to be reinforced further – in other words, a non market-moving FOMC meeting. With the recent Norges (Norway) and BOC (Bank of Canada) meetings, which both showed a clear bias for accommodation, today’s FOMC meeting was, to a certain extent, not that surprising. The Fed kept rates unchanged, but announced it would extend its Repo operations at least until April. They also lifted the IOER rate by 5bps to 1.6% and the overnight reverse repo to 1.5%. The Fed also confirmed that current monetary policy is appropriate to support and sustain expansion in labour markets and inflation. During the press conference, Jerome Powell mentioned that the Fed is monitoring risks related to the Coronavirus.

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Market Impact

The impact on markets was extremely limited with no big moves to report across asset classes such as gold prices and equities. During the press conference, US 10-year yields moved below 1.60% and equities gently retraced.

FOMC Meeting: Asset Allocation Consequences

The Fed’s repo operations, which effectively injected a huge amount of liquidity into the financial system, was one of the key reasons behind the stellar performance of growth-oriented assets towards the end of last year. The fact that the Fed will continue to provide that support over the next few months should help underpin markets. We have recently seen an uptick in macro growth momentum, as indicated by our proprietary Nowcasters. However, sentiment and valuations have recently led us to turn more cautious. Positioning is high in certain markets and asset classes and, most notably, equities and credit are currently expensive.

We have therefore recently lowered the overall beta of our portfolios. On a medium-term horizon, we have not modified our core scenario, which remains positive for equities throughout 2020 based on an improvement in macro momentum and continued accommodation by central banks globally. We will of course remain dynamic in our assessment and will monitor geopolitical risks, as well as election risks in the US, closely.

With this in mind, our current dynamic assessment for value investors articulates around three risk factors:

Risk Factors

Macro:

We have recently seen an uptick in growth momentum driven, in particular, by the US. Global growth momentum therefore remains supportive for the time being and central banks (including the FOMC meeting) have confirmed their accommodative stance as inflation pressures are currently nowhere to be found. We therefore remain constructive on the macro situation for now.

Market Sentiment:

Towards the end of last year, we saw a real pick-up in sentiment thanks to the Phase 1 trade deal being signed between the US and China and also due to the risk of a hard Brexit having greatly diminished following the UK elections. We have, however, turned more cautious as positioning has recently reached high levels in certain markets, particularly from the systematic community, which has high equity exposure, particularly in emerging markets.

Valuation:

Most asset classes are currently expensive, in particular equities and credit, and this has led us to turn more cautious in our short-term assessment. After the FOMC meeting, discrimination among and within assets therefore becomes key.

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