Uh-oh. Dovish Talk From The Fed Lays An Egg

March 21, 2019

Stocks whoopee-cushioned on word from the Fed that tightening is unlikely for the remainder of the year. “Interest rate increases could be on hold indefinitely,” Powell said. “It may be some time before the outlook for jobs and inflation calls clearly for a change in policy.” Although the stock market’s obligatory headless-chicken dance ended with the broad averages largely unchanged, it’s surprising and not a little disappointing that shares didn’t get more lift from the announcement. Some observers had expected the central bank to feint toward tightening, however cryptically, and so Powell’s latest utterance should have produced a reaction of at least mild relief.

At the same time the Fed Chairman was deftly managing our expectations — the job for which he was hired — the news media was doing its part to spin some front-page headlines in Wall Street’s favor. A trade deal with China by “late April” was reported to be in the works, but this was just the administration’s way of softening expectations and bending our patience toward an uncertain time horizon. And lest Boeing continue to drag on stocks, the fatal propensity of the 737 Max 8 to plummet to the ground was being ascribed to a mere onboard-computer glitch.  There’s nothing to see here, folks — just a few lines of bad code. Southwest, United and American have decided to keep flying the plane in any event, but we doubt that passengers would be so gutsy if they could choose their aircraft. A market solution would call for carriers to implement a $100 surcharge for travelers who’d rather avoid the Max 8. My money is on Frontier to lead the way on this. 

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