The Independent Market Observer

What Mattered This Week? Banks Seek Help from the Fed

March 24, 2023

There were two events that mattered this week. First was the regular Fed meeting on interest rates, where the Fed ended up raising rates by the expected 25 bps. Even as it did, though, Chair Powell led the press conference with unexpectedly dovish commentary. He explicitly said that the Fed was aware of the stress in the financial system, that it would have negative effects on the economy, and that it would affect future Fed decisions. All told, this was about as dovish a rate increase as you can get. On the whole, that seemed to leave markets feeling if not good, then at least not bad.

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Market Focus Moves from the Fed to Financial Crisis

March 23, 2023

Yesterday, the Fed completed its regular meeting and announced that it would increase interest rates by 25 bps, or a quarter percentage point. This move was in line with expectations, and markets shrugged. Even at the press conference, when some awkward questions were asked (which Chair Powell ducked), markets bounced around but remained calm. But then something else happened. After Powell had gone to some trouble to assure people that their deposits were safe (without actually committing to anything), Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was asked whether there were plans to dial up deposit insurance across the board. She said no, and then the market started to sell off.

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What Mattered This Week? Banks, Banks, Banks

March 17, 2023

On one hand, the answer to “what mattered this week?” is an easy one: the banks. On the other hand, the more difficult questions are, why does it matter and what does it all mean? So, let’s take a look at what happened and exactly why it matters.

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Are Bank Failures Signaling a Rerun of the Great Financial Crisis?

March 13, 2023

Starting last Friday and extending over the weekend, we saw two very large bank failures: Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank. Those followed the collapse last week of Silvergate, the “crypto bank.” These are some of the largest bank failures in U.S. history, and they all happened in the past several days. What is going on here—and could we be headed for the next Great Financial Crisis?

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What Mattered This Week? The Jobs Report and a Major Bank Closure

March 11, 2023

I tried this format a week ago—looking “beyond the numbers” to what the data really means—and the feedback was good. So, here we go again.

Two moments mattered this week—one pretty good, all things considered, and the other bad, potentially very bad. Let’s start with the good one.

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High Stakes for the February Jobs Report

March 9, 2023

There is a lot riding on the monthly jobs report, which comes out tomorrow. For the economy, more jobs are good: more workers, more wage income, more spending ability, and so forth. There’s no real downside. But for financial markets, a strong report would be problematic. Those workers—earning and spending their wages—add to demand, which adds to inflation. So, a strong report would be bad news for the Fed, for interest rates, and for markets. This is the problem we face tomorrow. 

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Looking Back at the Markets in February and Ahead to March 2023

March 7, 2023

After a strong January, markets continued to rally in early February, only to roll over and end the month down. Fears about inflation rebounded, and worries that the Fed would hike rates farther and faster dominated markets. While the economic data remained solid, this good news was bad news for markets, as it was seen as a sign of higher inflation and interest rates.

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What Mattered This Week? Consumer Confidence and Durable Goods

March 3, 2023

I’m going to try something new today. Rather than pick a specific topic to talk about, I’d like to look at the past week and discuss what everything means going forward. When I give talks, the usual title is “Beyond the Numbers,” where I present not only the data but what it means. Indeed, there are a lot of numbers out there every week, and not all of them mean anything. Of those that do, quite a few mean something different than what most people think. So, let’s take a look at what happened in the past week and what it means in the medium to longer term.

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Will the Bear Market Come Roaring Back?

February 28, 2023

Over the past two weeks, markets have been down between 4 percent and 5 percent, and worries about the economy and inflation have been growing. As a result, I’ve been getting questions as to whether it is time to start worrying about the resumption of last year’s bear market. While the recent volatility may well continue, and there are indeed things to keep an eye on, I don’t think so. Here’s why.

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What Matters for the Economy and Markets? 4 Signals to Watch

February 24, 2023

When you look at the news, there is a lot going on. Between politics and geopolitics, the macro environment is more unstable than usual. We see the same on the economic front, for both macro and micro reasons. Economic growth is down and up. Job growth is up—or is it? Consumer and business confidence are down—or are they? And, of course, inflation and long-term interest rates have been trending down—until recently, when they started trending up again.

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