Investors were expecting quarter-point interest rate hikes from the US Federal Reserve and European Central Bank (ECB) in early May. They got them, along with the collapse of another American regional bank, a warning from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that the US may not be able to pay its bills in June if the debt ceiling standoff persists and more violent protests against pension reform in France.
In the face of this uncertainty, and the unwillingness of major Western central banks to suspend the battle against inflation, investors continued to cut risk, increase their exposure to China’s rebound story and steer cash into liquidity funds.
How much longer will the war in Ukraine go on? How much further will central banks go before they deem inflation contained? How much damage will the latest US debt ceiling standoff do? How widely will the benefits of China’s anticipated economic rebound be felt? What direction will Japanese monetary policy take?
Actions spoke louder – to equity investors – than words coming into February, with the fact that the latest interest rate hike by the US Federal Reserve was only 25 basis points, boosting flows to US Equity Funds and other groups despite the accompanying verbal warning that the battle against inflation is “not fully done.”
Evidence that inflation is falling and global growth is stalling gave EPFR-tracked Bond Funds a shot in the arm during the first full week of January. Ahead of December’s CPI number, which showed US inflation grew at a 13-month low of 6.45% in the final month of 2022, investors committed over $17 billion to all Bond Funds.