Watching the Dow Jones Industrials plunge 665 points or 2.5%, the Nadaq drop 144.92 points or 2% and S&P 500 slide 59.84 points or 2.1% Friday, investors don’t know what to expect when markets open Monday. While bargain-hunters might step in Monday, it looks more like the Federal Reserve Board will continue its tightening policies, raising rates in 2018. Rate increases have changed the “irrational exuberance” that led to new market highs over the last year. Ending at 25,520.96 Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial are still up 3% year-to-date, despite the fact that Blue Chips like Google and Apple got hammered since hitting record highs last week. When Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Janet Yellen handed the baton to Jerome Powell today, Wall Street grows more nervous about the prospects of at least three more rate hikes in 2018, sending stocks tumbling.
Most analysts can’t decide whether or not the current downturn is the beginning of a market correction of perhaps 10%, or, in the Dow’s case, another 2,000 points. Expectations of higher interests and more inflation fueled the sell off, with major funds taking profits. If market makers believe stocks are overpriced based on a rising interest rates, then the correction will continue, regardless of Monday’s bargains. Major funks like to buy back shares once their value has dropped about 10%. Because there’s more right-than-wrong with the economy, including strong corporate earnings, then there’s no reason to believe the nation’s heading into recession in 2018. Planning more rate hikes in 2018, the Fed sees a rising Gross Domestic Product [GDP], buoyed by Friday’s jobs report, adding 200,000 non-farm payrolls, unemployment holding at 4.1%, and, most importantly, wages rising 2.8%.
Wage growth usually spells inflation to the Fed, giving Powell the green light to continue hiking the Federal Funds Rate. After six rate hikes since Dec. 14. 2016 , the Federal Funds Rate stands at 1.5%, potentially heading up to 2.25% by year’s end, sparing unforeseen economic or geopolitical events. Raising the Federal Funds Rate signals that the economy continues to gain steam with Fourth Quarter GDP at 2.8%. With the GOP’s new tax overhaul, lowering corporate rates from 35% to 21%, economists expect GDP to rise to 4% by year’s end, giving the Fed the green light to continue hiking rates. Whether or not the stock market—or economy—can take more rate hikes without plunging into recession is anyone’s guess. “The pace of rate increase is more important than the level, said Nate Thooft, senior portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Manament, concerned about rising rates.
Spiking to 2.84%, the 10-year U.S. Treasury rates has risen nearly a point in the last month. Bond prices continue to slide as short-and-long-term rates go up. Expectations of higher inflation usually fuel rising bond rates. “Once we started going north of 2.5%, and you put that together with an overbought market, it had the ingredients of a sell-off, especially since January was so strong,” said Jeff Zipper, regional investment strategist as U.S. Bank Private Wealth Management. Adding 200,000 jobs Friday prompted the Fed to continue hiking rates in 2018. After nine nears of economic expansion, the longest since end of WW II, consumer spending looks strong in the U.S. and in Europe. If the Fed raises rates four times in 2018, it will take the Federal Funds Rate to 2.5%. Market analysts generally like the idea of market corrections because it makes stocks more attractive to investors.
Taking profits over the last few sessions, Wall Street’s still trying to digest where share prices are headed in the near term. As long as the economy and corporate earnings remain strong, the sell-off provides buying opportunities to the big funds. “It’s appealing, these 2 to 3 percent pullbacks,” said Thooft, who admits to buying stocks on dips. Thooft acknowledged he could get burned if Wall Street continues to sell-off to discount share prices due to rising interest rates. Stock pickers like to dollar-cost-average, buying on dips, whether they’re lower or higher. With corporate earnings strong for the most part, it’s likely the bull market will continue, despite the occasional sell-offs. Google slumped 5.3%, when the stock missed analysts’ forecasts. In a sign that stocks remain strong, gold prices fell 10.60 to $1,337.30 an ounce or 0.94%, with silver falling 0.45 cents to $16.71 an ounce or 3.45%.
Long-term investors should ignore current market vacillations, realizing that Wall Street periodically takes profits. If gold and silver prices were steadily rising, stock investors should be more worried about the current downturn. World stock markets are rising, continuing to pull the Blue Chip Dow Jones Industrial, tech-rich Nasdaq and corporate S&P 500 up to higher levels. Fund managers like Thooft like periodic sell-offs creating new buying opportunities, especially with high valuations. Riding the ups-and-downs, investors should hang in there, instead of panicking and bailing out of shares. Whatever happens in 2018, geopolitical events, especially in North Korea, could very well upend Wall Street, at least temporarily. Powell needs to take rate hikes slowly to avoid more sell-offs. If Powell gets too zealous hiking rates, he could sabotage the longest bull market in U.S. history.