As 2023 drew to a close, the financial markets began to manifest the early signs of a soft-landing scenario, marked by a robust rally in equity markets in the fourth quarter, showcasing double-digit gains. This period was characterized by broadening of market strength, with notable outperformance by small-cap stocks, heavily shorted names, lower-quality companies, unprofitable tech, and a mix of long-duration, meme, cyclical, and value stocks.
In this quarter’s update, we begin by looking at interest rates at the very broadest levels, i.e. Treasury markets and Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) actions. We then take stock of the fixed income landscape, looking at current market metrics against a historical backdrop.
In recent years, the investment landscape has been significantly influenced by unprecedented monetary and fiscal stimuli, leading investors to focus on changes in inflation. But the front lines for significant government and central banks’ war against inflation have significantly diverged.
The key question going into the final quarter of 2023 and glancing towards 2024, is whether U.S. consumers, that account for roughly two-thirds of its total activity, will continue to keep the economy afloat.
As we embark on the second half of 2023, we find a market in conflict. Despite the continued (relative) hawkishness by the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee (FOMC) and its members, most risk assets have continued to perform well.
The second quarter of 2023 saw US equities climb higher powered by large cap growth companies leveraged to the AI (Artificial Intelligence) theme. A pickup in soft-landing expectations seemed to be among the more powerful tailwinds for equity markets.