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The Federal Reserve’s Jackson Hole meeting could shake up markets in the week ahead

Markets could be volatile, as investors await what could be a very hawkish message from Federal Reserve officials at their annual Jackson Hole economic symposium at the end of the week. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell speaks Friday at 10 a.m. ET, a highlight of the three-day Wyoming conference that begins Thursday. Fed watchers expect tough talk from the chairman, as he reinforces the central bank’s goal of stamping out inflation and keeping expectations about future prices gains in check. To do that, Powell and other Fed officials are expected to indicate they want to keep interest rates higher for a longer period than some investors are currently expecting, and that message could result in a volatile reaction. “If anyone is thinking there could be some indication that they’re near the end, they’re not likely to get it,” said Tony Crescenzi, Pimco executive vice president and portfolio manager. “It would defy the policy that worked in the last period of inflation in the 1970s, where the stop and go policy was rejected. It’s more likely to be a stop and hold policy this time around.” What else to watch Besides the Fed confab looming at the end of the week, there are some economic reports that will be important to watch. There are new home sales and S & P Global PMI services and manufacturing data Tuesday. Durable goods and pending home sales are out Wednesday. Personal consumption expenditures data, including the Fed’s preferred inflation measure, is released Friday morning before Powell speaks. Retailers will continue to post quarterly results, including Macy’s and Nordstrom on Tuesday. There will also be reports from Gap, Urban Outfitters , and Dollar Tree , among others. Nevertheless, expect the Fed’s Wyoming meeting to be a major catalyst. “The only thing that matters is Jackson Hole,” said Julian Emanuel, head of equity, derivative and quantitative research at Evercore ISI. Stocks have been choppy and lower in the past week. The S & P 500 finished down 1.2% for the week, its first decline after four weeks of gains. Some strategists note that wild trading in meme stocks, like the big swings in Bed Bath & Beyond can sometimes be a warning that speculation is running too high and the market is near a top. The market is also heading toward the typically negative month of September. Some chart strategists expect to see the market pull back then and possibly into October. They expect a reprieve from selling in the fourth quarter, historically a positive time in mid-term election years. “Because of the seasonals, the risks and the frothiness of meme trading, and what’s likely to be a hawkish message at Jackson Hole, the risks are to the downside,” said Emanuel. Emanuel said the market is in a tricky spot. Some strategists believe stocks may have launched into a new bull market because more than 90% of the S & P 500 companies rose above their 200-day moving average, as of the end of last week. However, the S & P 500 approached its 200-day moving average in the past week and then reversed. The 200-day was at 4,320 Friday. That is simply the average of the last 200 closes, and it serves as a momentum indicator. A close above it would have signaled more gains. “Like everything else, because you’re so close to the 200-day moving average in the S & P, it’s really hard to determine when it’s a bear market rally, a new bull market or you’re going into this zone of indecision f or a period of time,” Emanuel said. Treasury yields have been moving higher ahead of Jackson Hole. On Friday, the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.98%, nearing the 3% level it has not been at since mid-July. Jackson Hole risks Market debate has centered around how much the central bank will raise interest rates at its upcoming Sept. 20 and 21 meeting, after its double-barreled three-quarter point hikes in June and July. In the futures market, traders see a strong chance of a 75 basis point hike. A basis point equals 0.01 of a percentage point. Since March, the Fed has raised its fed funds target range to 2.25% to 2.5%. By the end of this year, the futures market is pricing in a fed funds rate range of 3.25% to 3.5%. The futures market points to the highest rates, of 3.5% to 3.75%, for next April, and then it shows at least one quarter point cut in the second half of the year. “The Fed is trying to frontload hikes,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. “They’re trying to get it out of their system and cool it down next year. The question is do we go from cooling to cutting, but I think the Fed is trying to make it clear this week that’s not on their agenda.” Boockvar said Powell is not likely to break new policy ground in his speech, as former Chairman Ben Bernanke did when he discussed quantitative easing during the financial crisis. “He’s already laid out his flight plan,” said Boockvar Some Fed officials have been emphasizing that the central bank will not start cutting once it gets to a terminal rate, and that it could pursue a policy of higher rates for longer, instead. San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly, for one, said Thursday that she supports a “raise-and-hold” strategy, and once rates get to a certain level, she does not expect the Fed will reverse course. “It’s better for rates for the Fed to show tough love and demonstrate its vigilance on inflation than to let up,” said Crescenzi. He said if the central bank were to engage in a “stop and go” policy, rates would be higher simply because investors would think the Fed slowed policy too early to crush inflation. In the past week, some investors took comments contained in minutes of the central bank’s last meeting as somewhat more dovish because they indicated the Fed would slow the size of cuts. But Fed watchers say the more hawkish message was clear. “This is people squinting for doves, and they’re still hawks. The Fed wants to raise rates, hold it and once it sees inflation is not longer a problem, they’ll ease,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at KPMG. “That process is not something that can happen between now and the end of the year.” Swonk said the Fed is not planning to reverse policy, as some market players anticipate. “They’re worried about inflation. The markets want to keep going back to where we were, when the Fed often did rapid turnabouts. That’s where we were,” she said. “The Fed has learned, perhaps to a fault, that it was wrong about inflation being transitory and is also worried about a more entrenched inflation.” Barclays equity strategists note that Fed rates expectations have been rising recently, but those rate cuts are still priced in for the second half of next year. “Powell’s speech at Jackson Hole next week should thus be [an] important catalyst, which may prompt a realignment in x-asset performance,” the strategists wrote in a note. “The key for equities is whether Powell will push back against the view of a 2023 easing cycle and guide towards a higher terminal rate, or if he keeps optionality.” Technically speaking As traders wait for Jackson Hole, the market appears to be flashing more negative warnings, according to some strategists who watch charts. “It feels like the August summer top is in , looking at the action in meme names and excess speculation,” said Scott Redler, chief strategic officer of T3 Live. “That move seemed to have expired on Tuesday as the S & P hit a high of 4,325. There were signals that momentum was slowing and excess froth gave traders a heads up to lighten risk and potentially get on the short side.” Redler, who watches short-term technicals, said the negative bias was confirmed Friday morning when the S & P 500 fell below the key 4,250 level and stayed there. The S & P ended the week at 4,228. “The ascending channel the S & P was riding since the June low, broke today,” Redler said. He is now watching the 4,177 level for support, and another level below it at 4,040. “Since the June lows, we’ve been in an uptrend,” he said. “Today’s the day that confirmed that perhaps we could see a new retracement low heading in to Jackson Hole and September.” Week ahead calendar Monday Earnings: Palo Alto Networks, Zoom Video Tuesday Earnings: Macy’s, Nordstrom, Toll Brothers, Intuit, Urban Outfitters , La-Z-Boy, Advance Auto Parts, J.M. Smucker, JD.com, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Medtronic 9:45 a.m. S & P Global Manufacturing PMI 9:45 a.m. S & P Global Services PMI 10:00 a.m. New home sales 7:00 p.m. Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari Wednesday Earnings: Nvidia, Salesforce, Box, Royal Bank of Canada, Snowflake, Victoria’s Secret, Petco , Brinker International, NetApp, Autodesk 8:30 a.m. Durable goods 10:00 a.m. Pending home sales Thursday Jackson Hole economic symposium begins Earnings: Dell Technologies, Gap, Affirm Holdings, Peloton Interactive, Canadian Imperial Bank, Toronto-Dominion, Burlington Stores, Shoe Carnival, Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Coty, Ulta Beauty, Marvell Technology, VMWare, Workday, Grab Holdings, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hain Celestial 8:30 a.m. Initial claims 8:30 a.m. Real GDP Q2 (second) Friday 8:30 a.m. Personal consumption expenditures 8:30 a.m. Advance economic indicators 10:00 a.m. Consumer sentiment 10:00 a.m. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell speaks on the economy at Jackson Hole

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