Defying most expectations, the stock market has moved higher this year, even as inflation remains elevated, and the Fed pursues its most aggressive rate-hiking campaign in four decades. Hope for an economic soft landing has emerged among investors, leading many to anticipate better days ahead.
A prolonged period of ultra-low interest rates encouraged complacency and risk-taking across financial markets and the broader economy. There had to be payback. Now, as policymakers ramp up rates to combat inflation, some vulnerabilities have risen to the surface, most recently in the banking sector.
Financial markets have remained under significant pressure with many investors glued to each inflation print in an attempt to gauge future Federal Reserve policy moves. The concern: Stubbornly high inflation could prompt further aggressive interest rate hikes, knocking the economy into recession.
The coronavirus pandemic has dominated the investment landscape the past two years. As the U.S. economy rebounded and corporate profits recovered, stock prices surged while interest rates stayed very low. Entering 2022, the focus shifted to the potential threat of inflation and how Federal Reserve policy could hamper growth. Then came Russia’s unconscionable behavior in Ukraine.