The odds of a soft landing for the US economy narrowed significantly in Q1 as economic data continued to come in too hot and markets began to fear an environment of higher rates for longer.
We are writing to give you a brief update on the events in the banking sector over the past week and the implications on Rain portfolios. By now you are likely aware of the events surrounding Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) which was seized by the FDIC on Friday, and Silvergate Capital Corp, which announced it was voluntarily liquidating its banking entity. Both firms were hit by downturns in their respective industries, technology, and cryptocurrency startups.
The economy and financial markets remained rangebound in the fourth quarter, after a year of historic shocks including surging inflation, the outbreak of war in Europe and sharply tighter monetary policy.
The economy decelerated and financial conditions tightened during the third quarter, making for a challenging time for financial markets. While inflation numbers appear to have peaked during the period, the outlook for prices remains uncertain, driven by the continued war in Ukraine, draconian Chinese COVID policy, and a tight US labor market.
While the war in Europe dominated markets in Q1, the only war that mattered to markets in Q2 was the battle that was heating up between the Fed and inflation. During the quarter, surging prices forced the Fed to pivot to dramatically more aggressive tightening. This in turn drove mortgage rates up, sent the dollar soaring and led to significant stock market losses.
Just as the prolonged economic disruption of COVID-19 seemed to be disappearing in the rearview mirror, the world got a lot more complicated again in the first quarter of the year.
Despite uneven growth and the start-stop nature of the COVID economy in 2021, the US (and most developed economies) registered the strongest economic growth in nearly four decades.
Toward the end of the third quarter of 2021, it became clear the economic rebound in the US would be more uneven than expected. A resurgent virus and signs of waning vaccine effectiveness held back the nascent recovery in the travel and leisure industries, supply-chain bottlenecks persisted and began to hamper production, a regulatory crackdown in China sent shudders through foreign markets, and back-to-back hurricanes in the eastern US further complicated the recovery.
The US economy surged through the second quarter on the back of massive fiscal stimulus and public health data indicating that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.