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What rate move will it take for S&P 500 to break?


On Wednesday, the latest CPI data came in hotter-than-expected, pushing the S&P 500 lower. Following the data, analysts at Citi questioned what interest rate move it would take for equities to “break.”

US consumer prices picked up steam again last month, increasing by 3.5% for the 12 months ended in March, according to the latest Consumer Price Index data released Wednesday. The month-on-month inflation rate came in at 0.4%, above expectations.

Markets sharply cut their expectations for a June rate cut by the Federal Reserve. The hawkish-leaning minutes from the central bank’s March meeting also impacted rate expectations.

The CME Fedwatch tool showed traders pricing in only a 19% chance of a 25 basis point rate cut in June, down sharply from last week.

In the FOMC minutes, it was stated that the Committee “does not expect it will be appropriate to reduce the target range until it has gained greater confidence that inflation is moving sustainably toward 2 percent.”

Citi analysts noted that strong CPI prints the US “typically do not have much follow-through, and strong economic data has been good news for equities, in spite of higher rates.”

“That said, effects could be non-linear,” said the bank. “Based on our analysis, it would take another 50-75bp of cuts to be priced out, coinciding with a continued selloff in UST.”

The firm says that in most cases historically, a significant further pricing out of cuts was needed for an equity pullback to happen, along with some additional selloff in US Treasurys.

In addition, equity markets have traded good news as good news despite higher rates, reacting well recently to stronger data despite the move higher in bond yields.

As a result, the bank believes it is premature to bail on its equity overweights. However, given that we have seen a number of CPI misses in a row, they think the market may well run with the “no cuts for 2024” narrative.

“When we reached critical rates levels that undermined equities in the past, we saw bonds subsequently strengthen, along with some short-lived USD strength and weaker base metals,” stated Citi. “However, we are not there yet. In the run-up to the riot point, the USD and oil typically do well.”

“While we have been underweight UST since early February, today we increase our underweight, to have a more complete hedge for our duration longs in Europe, UK and EM.”

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