Investors thought they heard a dovish note from the Federal Reserve and markets rallied.
Last week, we learned from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) that economic growth in the United States slowed for the second consecutive quarter. Economic growth is measured by gross domestic product, or GDP, which is the value of all goods and services produced during a specific period. GDP includes household, business and government spending, as well as exports and imports.
Before inflation, the U.S. economy grew by 6.6 percent in the first quarter of 2022 and by 7.9 percent in the second quarter, according to the FRED Economic Data. After inflation, GDP shrank by 1.6 percent in the first quarter and by 0.9 percent in the second quarter.
Is it a recession or isn’t it?
Two consecutive quarters of negative growth is the popular definition of recession, and there was a lot of debate last week about whether the U.S. is in a recession. One reason for the debate is that the main driver of U.S. economic growth is household spending, which accounts for about 68 percent of GDP. During the first half of the year, household spending continued to increase, although it slowed.
“While a low unemployment rate and still-healthy consumer and corporate balance sheets mean the economy continues to show resilience for now, expectations that the U.S. will enter a formal downturn within the next year continue to rise,” reported Megan Cassella of Barron’s.
Financial markets rallied
In unscripted remarks, Fed Chair Jerome Powell indicated that interest rates had reached a neutral level. When rates are neutral, monetary policy is neither contractionary nor expansionary. Investors took Powell’s comment to mean the Fed might ease rates sooner rather than later, and markets rallied, wrote Economist Mohamed A. El-Erian in a Bloomberg opinion piece.
“The S&P 500 soared 4.3% for the week and 9.1% in July, the best monthly advance since November 2020…Treasury yields dropped across the curve as well…Taken together, the equity and bond rallies helped loosen U.S. financial conditions,” reported Katherine Greifeld and Vildana Hajric of Bloomberg.”
While the rally was welcomed by investors, looser financial conditions are the opposite of what the Fed wants to achieve. It is trying to tighten financial conditions and reduce demand. It appears the Fed has more work to do.