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Markets in a Minute: 2022 First Quarter Review & Outlook
If 2021 proved that markets can climb a wall of worry, this year’s first quarter demonstrated that they can ignore certain risks for only so long.
Even before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, risks that the markets had mostly shrugged off last year — from lofty valuations among growth-oriented stocks to tighter monetary policy – began to weigh on stock and bond prices. The war in Ukraine only added fuel to the proverbial fire, exacerbating inflationary pressures (particularly energy prices) and concerns about the global economic outlook.
Macroeconomic concerns, combined with new geopolitical risk, reignited market volatility in the first quarter. Here’s a recap of performance:
Are stock and bond markets signaling an impending recession, or a downshifting from the torrid growth of 2021? We continue to be in the downshifting camp.
The continuing war in Ukraine, rising inflationary pressures and a more-hawkish Federal Reserve represent the largest risks to the economy. Despite these headwinds, most areas of the economy continue to show strength:
While the Fed fights inflation, we’re seeing signs that price pressures could also cool organically. The recent bout of high inflation has been fueled mostly by a huge imbalance between supply and demand for goods. But manufacturing inventory levels are starting to rebound, and shipping costs, which had skyrocketed because of bottlenecks at major ports, are on the decline. Both trends indicate that supply chain disruptions are easing.
What about the risk that the Fed steps on the brakes too hard as it seeks to curb inflation? As inflation has accelerated, Fed-funds futures market expectations for more-aggressive rate hikes have increased dramatically, according to the CME FedWatch Tool. In an unusual twist, the market also now anticipates rate cuts in 2023, which would imply that it raised rates too much this year.
The first quarter provided more evidence that this cycle has played out in fast forward, beginning with the economic roller coaster ride that was 2020. Now, the economy appears to be downshifting to slower growth sooner than we might have anticipated — no doubt helped along by the waning of the fiscal and monetary stimulus that helped us get through the pandemic.
During such volatile times, it’s important for investors to ensure that their portfolios are aligned with their goals. It’s also important to keep in mind that stocks and bonds can provide positive returns amid geopolitical and other risks, as long as the economy remains fundamentally healthy.
Want to learn more? Read previous issues of Markets in a Minute that explore how stocks have performed during previous tightening cycles and past military conflicts; which stock-market sectors have tended to shine when inflation is high; and why bonds continue to play an important role in portfolios.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra Advisor Services Holdings C, Inc., d/b/a Kestra Holdings, and its subsidiaries, including, but not limited to, Kestra Advisory Services, LLC, Kestra Private Wealth Services, LLC, Kestra Investment Services, LLC, Kestra Investment Management, LLC, Bluespring Wealth Partners, LLC, and Grove Point Financial, LLC. The material is for informational purposes only. It represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events, or a guarantee of future results. It is not guaranteed by any entity for accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions. It should also not be construed as advice meeting the particular investment needs of any investor. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was created to provide accurate and reliable information on the subjects covered but should not be regarded as a complete analysis of these subjects. It is not intended to provide specific legal, tax or other professional advice. The services of an appropriate professional should be sought regarding your individual situation. Kestra Advisor Services Holdings C, Inc., d/b/a Kestra Holdings, and its subsidiaries, including, but not limited to, Kestra Advisory Services, LLC, Kestra Private Wealth Services, LLC, Kestra Investment Services, LLC, Kestra Investment Management, LLC, Bluespring Wealth Partners, LLC, and Grove Point Financial, LLC does not offer tax or legal advice.