Investing in the now Investing in the now\images\insights\article\sundial-small.jpg April 1 2024 April 1 2024

Investing in the now

The Fed is not feeling pressure to cut rates.

Published April 1 2024

It is hard to live in the present in general, but that is particularly true in business and finance as so much is predicated on what comes next. Whether it is the big “E” in the equation for determining future value or the lower-case “e” of the word itself, expectations rule.

But in the case of liquidity products, the here & now is attractive and the near & future looks good, too. The Federal Reserve will eventually lower rates, but based on the March FOMC meeting, that is down the road. While the new Summary of Economic Projections (SEP) calls for three quarter-point cuts this year, we think the first will not arrive until July, and it is possible the June SEP will indicate just two. Inflation’s recent back-up reminds us that the last mile is the hardest. Retail sales show the economy is steady and the labor market remains robust. Having reeled in market hopes for aggressive easing, the Fed might need to hold the line taut to keep them hooked. 

The situation means this remarkable period in cash management history could stretch for many more months, keeping yields attractive and assets growing. Supply of Treasuries might be a little tighter in the second quarter as the U.S. Treasury receives tax payments, but that should not have a material impact. Speaking of taxes, the tax-adjusted value of municipal money funds across the industry for those in the top tax brackets is compelling, and SIFMA has been less volatile of late.  

One more time, for good measure

A final reminder that the next compliance stage of the new SEC money market rules arrives tomorrow. Money funds must maintain at least 25% in daily liquid assets (previously 10%) and at least 50% in weekly liquid assets (previously 30%). Tax-exempt money funds are not subject to the daily requirement.

Liquidity at large

The era of paying banks to hold cash has ended as the Bank of Japan (BoJ) hiked rates last month for the first time in 17 years. That action pushed its main rate out of negative territory, from -0.1 to a range of between 0% and 0.1%. But lest savers in Japan get too ecstatic, such a modest move means BoJ policy remains very accommodative, especially because officials did not outline a path of additional hikes. In the other direction, the Swiss National Bank became the first developed-market central bank to cut its main interest rate, which it did by a quarter-point to 1.5%.

The rest of the world’s major monetary policymakers followed the Fed in holding benchmark rates steady and signaling easing is on the horizon. The European Central Bank kept its deposit target at 4%, yet signaled it could potentially start easing at its June meeting. Bigger news came with its announcement it will shrink its bond portfolio, lending more to banks to offset liquidity concerns. The Bank of England held rates at 5.25%, though Governor Andrew Bailey said inflation is “moving in the right direction.” The Bank of Canada left its at 5%, signaling it is premature to consider cuts despite improvements in inflation and wage growth. Lastly, the Reserve Bank of Australia held policy rates at a 12-year high of 4.35%.

Tags Liquidity . Monetary Policy . Markets/Economy .

Views are as of the date above and are subject to change based on market conditions and other factors. These views should not be construed as a recommendation for any specific security or sector.

An investment in money market funds is neither insured nor guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Although some money market funds seek to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 per share, it is possible to lose money by investing in these funds.

Municipal bond income may be subject to the federal alternative minimum tax (AMT) and state and local taxes.

The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association Municipal Swap Index (Sifma) is a 7-day high-grade market index comprised of tax-exempt Variable Rate Demand Obligations (VRDOs) with certain characteristics.

Issued and approved by Federated Investment Management Company