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“While higher interest rates, slower growth, and softer labor market conditions will bring down inflation, they will also bring some pain to households and businesses.” – Jerome Powell
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It’s looking like another day of declines heading into the weekend after FedEx (FDX) lowered guidance last night, making an already weak backdrop even weaker. FDX wasn’t the only company to warn since the close yesterday. Companies like GE and Huntsman (HUN) also lowered guidance citing issues like supply chain bottlenecks and high energy costs. If the S&P 500 does finish down 1% today, it will be the sixth straight week of a gain or loss of 1%+ on the last trading day of the week. That would be the longest streak since May 2020 (ten weeks) and tied for the second-longest streak since at least 1952 (when the five-day trading week on the NYSE started).
The only economic report on the calendar is the Michigan Sentiment report at 10 AM Eastern. Economists expect the headline reading to bounce to 60.0 from 58.2 at its last read. The most important aspect of the report to watch, though, is inflation expectations. In that respect, economists are expecting one-year inflation expectations to fall to 4.6% from 4.8% while 5-10 year inflation expectations are forecast to remain unchanged at 2.9%.
When Powell said back in August that businesses and households would feel ‘pain’ from higher interest rates he wasn’t lying, but is a situation like FedEx (FDX) what he had in mind? The stock is currently trading down over 20% in the pre-market which would rank as the worst single-day decline for the stock since its IPO in 1978. Declines of this magnitude weren’t even felt during the 1987 crash, the financial crisis, or during the COVID crash. At the open today, FDX will still be well above its COVID lows (when global trade essentially shut down temporarily), but it will be right at levels it was trading at right before COVID hit US shores.
Given the trends we have seen this year, you would have expected FDX to be blaming increased labor and energy costs as well as supply chain bottlenecks for the weakness in results, but those issues were notably absent. Instead, FDX cited “global volume softness that accelerated in the final weeks of the quarter” and “macroeconomic weakness in Asia and service challenges in Europe”. With a warning like this, it raises the question of whether the Fed is too busy fighting yesterday’s battle and missing what’s on the horizon.
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