Stocks have become hesitant as to which direction to head into with all eyes now on whether the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this week for the first time in almost a decade. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart) started the week down 62.13, the Nasdaq Composite (chart) closed Monday’s session out down 16.58, the S&P 500 (chart) fell 8 points and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) closed modest lower by 4.3 points.
As investors and traders await the decision from the Federal Reserve as to whether or not a rate increase will occur, I think the markets are putting too much emphasis on the initial hike, regardless if it’s announced after the conclusion of their two-day meeting this week. To me what’s more is how will the Federal Reserve respond over the coming months and quarters ahead? Shouldn’t we be more attuned to their behavior pattern after the first hike? Or whether or not they will raise rates at an accelerated rate? To me this is the bigger question. Of course a quarter point rate hike or even a 50 basis point hike is in the cards and is inevitable at some point in time, whether it’s this week or at the Federal Reserve’s future meetings. My focus and attention will be on how they treat the interest rate environment after the first rate hike actually occurs. Based on the temperament and demeanor of Janet Yellen, I would expect a continuing cautious protocol from our Fed Chair and I would think that neither she or the Fed would not be inclined to raise rates too fast. I would think the economic data would dictate the velocity of future rate hikes and even if the data becomes robust, the Federal Reserve would want to see multiple quarters of meaningful expansion before we get back to normalized rates.
That said, I do think that the markets and investors are going to need to get used to increased volatility and market swings similar to what we have been experiencing over the past few months. I believe gone are the days of low vol and indeed investors are going to need to pay attention now more than ever to the true growth rates of companies, especially on the top-line. You see in a rising interest rate environment companies can no longer grow their bottom line alone while maintaining high valuations. Real growth needs to come forward in the form actual sales expansion in addition to productivity in order for companies to maintain elevated P/E multiples. Bottom line, you better know the companies you choose to invest in because the free lunch so to speak that the markets, investors and traders have enjoyed over the past several years may come to a close in the near future…
Good luck to all 🙂