Stocks Surge as End of Fed Hikes Comes Into View

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A buoyant optimism filled Wall Street on Thursday as investors interpreted the Fed’s latest decision to stand pat on rates as a sign the end of the hiking cycle may be near. The Nasdaq leapt 1.5% while the S&P 500 and Dow climbed nearly 1.25% each as traders priced in dwindling odds of additional tightening.

While Fed Chair Jerome Powell stressed future moves would depend on the data, markets increasingly see one more increase at most, not the restrictive 5-5.25% peak projected earlier. The CME FedWatch tool shows only a 20% chance of a December hike, down from 46% before the Fed meeting.

The prospect of peak rates arriving sparked a “risk-on” mindset. Tech stocks which suffered during 2023’s relentless bumps upward powered Thursday’s rally. Apple rose over 3% ahead of its highly anticipated earnings report. The iPhone maker’s results will offer clues into consumer spending and China demand trends.

Treasury yields fell in tandem with rate hike expectations. The 10-year yield dipped under 4.6%, nearing its early October lows. As monetary policy tightening fears ease, bonds become more attractive.

Meanwhile, Thursday’s batch of earnings updates proved a mixed bag. Starbucks and Shopify impressed with better than forecast reports showcasing resilient demand and progress on cost discipline. Shopify even managed to eke out a quarterly profit thanks to AI-driven optimization.

Both stocks gained over 10%, extending gains for October’s worst sectors – consumer discretionary and tech. But biotech Moderna plunged nearly 20% on underwhelming COVID vaccine sales guidance. With demand waning amid relaxed restrictions, Moderna expects revenue weakness to persist.

Still, markets found enough earnings bright spots to sustain optimism around what many now view as the Fed’s endgame. Bets on peak rates mark a momentous shift from earlier gloom over soaring inflation and relentless hiking.

Savoring the End of Hiking Anxiety

Just six weeks ago, recession alarm bells were clanging loudly. The S&P 500 seemed destined to retest its June lows after a brief summer rally crumbled. The Nasdaq lagged badly as the Fed’s hawkish resolve dashed hopes of a policy pivot.

But September’s surprisingly low inflation reading marked a turning point in sentiment. Rate hike fears moderated and stocks found firmer footing. Even with some residual CPI and jobs gains worrying hawkish Fed members, investors are increasingly looking past isolated data points.

Thursday’s rally revealed a market eager to rotate toward the next major focus: peak rates. With the terminal level now potentially in view, attention turns to the timing and magnitude of rate cuts once inflation falls further.

Markets are ready to move on from monetary policy uncertainty and regain the upside mentality that supported stocks for so long. The Nasdaq’s outperformance shows traders positioning for a soft landing rather than bracing for recession impact.

Challenges Remain, but a Peak Brings Relief

Reaching peak rates won’t instantly cure all market ills, however. Geopolitical turmoil, supply chain snarls, and the strong dollar all linger as headwinds. Corporate earnings face pressure from margins strained by high costs and waning demand.

And valuations may reset lower in sectors like tech that got ahead of themselves when easy money flowed freely. But putting an endpoint on the rate rollercoaster will remove the largest overhang on sentiment and allow fundamentals to reassert influence.

With peak rates cementing a dovish pivot ahead, optimism can return. The bear may not yet retreat fully into hibernation, but its claws will dull. As long as the economic foundation holds, stocks have room to rebuild confidence now that the end is in sight.

Of course, the Fed could always surprise hawkishly if inflation persists. But Thursday showed a market ready to look ahead with hopes the firehose of rate hikes shutting off will allow a modest new bull run to take shape in 2024.


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