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Wall Street Reacts to Inflation Data Amid Fed's Ongoing Struggle

Investors expressed relief on Tuesday after a report showed U.S. consumer prices rising at an anticipated monthly rate. However, they warned of uncertainty as the Federal Reserve continues battling inflation and a banking crisis.

Wall Street sign
Wall Street sign

February Inflation Report Meets Expectations, but Challenges Remain

The inflation report for February indicated a 0.4% rise in consumer prices and a 6% year-on-year increase, aligning with analysts' predictions but far from the Fed's desired 2% rate. These relieved investors are concerned about the potential need for massive rate hikes to address inflation and maintain stability after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank (NASDAQ:SBNY).

Market Reaction to CPI Report: Stocks and S&P 500 on the Rise

Rick Meckler, a partner at Cherry Lane Investments, commented that the CPI report met expectations, providing reassurance amid market anxiety. Stocks increased following the report, with the S&P 500 recently up by 1.5% after a low point in early January trading on Monday.

Investors Remain Cautious as Inflation Worries Linger

Many investors worry that relief from inflation concerns may be short-lived. Rick Rieder, CIO of global fixed income at BlackRock (NYSE:BLK), stated that inflation remains high and the Fed's job is far from over. He emphasized the need to monitor financial stability concerns while recognizing inflationary pressures as a possible primary concern again.

Fed Meeting Anticipated: Traders Adjust Bets on Rate Hikes

Expectations for a 50 basis point increase at the Fed's meeting later this month spiked after Fed Chair Jerome Powell remarked on potentially raising rates higher than anticipated. However, traders adjusted their bets after SVB's failure, with futures predicting a 72% chance of a 25 bp hike and a 28% chance of unchanged rates, according to the CME FedWatch tool.

Wall Street
Wall Street

Mixed Signals from Core CPI and Treasury Yields

While not all aspects of the CPI report were positive, with core CPI exceeding estimates at a 0.5% monthly increase, U.S. Treasury yields gained following Monday's significant decline. Angelo Kourkafas of Edward Jones said the report indicates that the Fed still has work to do, as inflation has not slowed as much as hoped.

UBS Global Wealth Management Cautious on Equities Outlook

Mark Haefele, CIO at UBS Global Wealth Management, cautioned regarding the outlook for equities for the remainder of 2023. He cited lower bond yields, potentially relaxed Fed policy, high valuations, falling earnings estimates, recession risks, and unforeseen consequences of Fed tightening as factors reducing the market's attractiveness.

Wall Street Focused on Banking Sector Amid Regional Crisis

King Lip, a chief strategist at Baker Avenue Wealth Management, stated that Wall Street's primary focus is now on the possibility of contagion from the regional banking crisis, as the CPI report was not worse than expected.