September 18, 2019
“History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” Mark Twain
As expected, the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) policy committee cut its policy rate by 25 basis points (.25%) to a target range of 1.75%–2%. This comes on the heels of the first rate cut in more than 10 years at the end of July. This cut is somewhat more controversial, however, because the overall U.S. economic data has been improving, and there’s been a tick higher in inflation.
One of the most important questions heading into this meeting was how many voting Fed members would support additional rate cuts. There were two dissenting voting members at the July rate cut, and once again there were two votes opposed to today’s cut—but unlike last time, there was also one dissenter who favored a larger 50 basis point (.50%) cut. Materials in the economic projections indicated 10 of 17 participants (which includes non-voting members) did not believe additional cuts would be needed over the remainder of the year, although evolving economic conditions could certainly lead to a shift.
As the quote from Mark Twain suggests, by looking back at history we can potentially find clues as to what might happen in the future.
Looking back at the previous two recessions (2001 and 2008), the Fed cut rates 50 basis points (.50%) to kick off the new cycle of rate cuts. We looked back at what the Fed said at the time, and policymakers didn’t foresee a recession; the larger .50% cut might have been their way of showing how worried they really were at the time. In other words, maybe the Fed knew there potentially was trouble under the surface.
Compare this with three consecutive 25 basis point (.25%) cuts in the 1995/1996 and 1998 rate cut cycles, which led to continued equity gains and avoided recessions. Given we foresee one more cut this year, could it be another three cuts of 25 basis points (.25%) and then an economic acceleration?
“Here’s the catch. When the first two cuts in a new cycle of rate cuts are only 25 basis points, this could be the Fed’s way of truly viewing the cuts as insurance,” explained LPL Financial Senior Market Strategist Ryan Detrick. “In fact, the past five cycles of cuts that started with two 25 basis point cuts saw the S&P 500 Index move higher 6 and 12 months later every single time.”
As shown in the LPL Chart of the Day, Stocks Have Historically Done Well If The First Two Fed Rate Cuts Are 25 Basis Points, the S&P 500 was up an average of 9.7% six months after the second of two 25 basis point cuts to kick off a new cycle of rate cuts. Going out a year, the S&P 500 had gained a very impressive average of 16.7%.
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