Fed Watch: Zero Odds

Something amazing happened in the rate futures market this week. The 18-month nightmare of second-guessing the force with which the Fed will hit the brake is over. The last hawks woke up to a new reality.

There is now zero implied chance that the Fed will tighten next month. It makes sense. While Powell and company will keep monitoring fresh economic data, the next CPI won’t come out until they’re already deep in deliberation.

Even if inflation somehow revives this month, one data point just doesn’t make enough of a trend to force the Fed’s hand. They’ll hold off until at least 2024.

But with wholesale prices actively dropping, another CPI spike is unlikely. And that’s why the market is now setting zero odds of a hike in January either.

Go out to March. Zero odds. Big money says there’s roughly a 30% chance that the Fed will actually feel confident enough to cut at that point if the economy is doing well . . . or in the event of a flash recession, the Fed will decide we need a little slack.

May, June, July, September, November and then next December: zero odds of a rate hike. Nobody on Wall Street is putting their money on that scenario. They just don’t take it seriously, even as a way to hedge otherwise bullish bets.

Instead, there are now roughly 50:50 odds that we’ll get a cut before June. And by July, we’re probably going to be coming down the other side of the rate peak.

Admittedly, Wall Street can get things wrong all the time. But the consensus opinion of the smartest people in the market is generally pretty close to reality . . . and if we haven’t already survived the worst rates of the cycle, they’re all collectively wrong.

I’m thinking the worst is over. As long as there aren’t any outside shocks to the system, this is as bad as it gets. And shocks tend to push rates DOWN. The worse it feels from here, the faster the relief can come.