Holiday jubilation came early to Wall Street last week as positive news about inflation led to a third straight winning week. The overall Consumer Price Index for October dropped to 3.2% annually from 3.7% the previous month—and from a peak, in this business cycle, of 9.1% in June 2022.
At the same time, core inflation, which excludes fuel and food prices, fell to 4% in October, the smallest increase since September 2021. Bond prices rallied sharply, as the yield on the 10-year Treasury dipped to 4.43%. A few weeks ago, it was above 5%, its highest since 2007.
Investors’ hopes for a Fed pivot towards lower short-term interest rates fueled the benchmark S&P 500 to rise sharply, climbing nearly 10% from its October lows, and propelled year-to-date returns on the bellwether index to more than 19%.
Time to pop open the champagne? Depends on what data you’re digesting. On the one hand, soft jobs data, slowing inflation, and a resilient economy are rekindling hopes for an economic soft-landing, which seemed nearly impossible a year ago. On the other hand, a more troubling downturn could be on the way. Some analysts predict large ripple effects from rising commercial property market foreclosures and a coming wave of corporate bankruptcies. Mounting debt-refinancing issues face even the most powerful private equity firms, and could lead to deeper problems for investors.
What we’re seeing now is great news, to be sure, but it doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet. Even Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledges this. All of which is to say, hope is warranted, but maybe not too much. Keep that champagne on ice.