Market Update: Nvidia versus the Fed

Good inflation news not yet good news for all, Christian Adams , 22 May 2024

Nvidia versus the Fed
The UK election news was a damp squib for markets with investors excited by AI giant Nvidia’s results, but quickly reverting to central bank fretting.

AI trade broadening?
From power generation to copper prices, the AI effect is spreading from the US tech giants to other sectors as the technology is adopted more widely.

US election: it’s politics, stupid
Under Biden the US economy has done well right? Not according to opinion polls, meaning Biden has his work cut out ahead of the November election.


Nvidia versus the Fed

Following the strong upwards surge in stocks and bonds at the beginning of May, capital markets have recently moderated and were mostly flat, to slightly down, overall last week. Britons were preoccupied with Rishi Sunak’s surprise election call – polling now less than six weeks away – but capital markets clearly had bigger things to worry about. Stellar results from AI tech giant Nvidia excited, but minutes from May’s meeting of the US Federal Reserve dampened investor sentiment in equal measure. It was the US economy’s back-and-forth narrative in a nutshell: healthy growth and profits, but stock market valuation held in check by the resulting headwinds from higher interest rates for longer.

No election nerves.
First, matters closer to home. It was not just global stocks that shrugged off the election announcement; the FTSE 100 barely reacted either. UK equities were virtually flat on Wednesday, but fell into week’s end, following the negative lead of the US markets the day before. For the globally focused multinationals that make up our main index, Fed policy is seen as more important than domestic politics.

Markets’ nonchalance towards British politics also reflects the view that no major economic or financial changes are expected. With the Labour party’s commanding lead in the polls, betting markets have it as a near-certainty that 14 years of Conservative-led rule will end. But Keir Starmer has committed his party to tight spending rules, so the economic effects – at least in the medium-term – are likely to be marginal.

That is not to say there will not be any. If Labour manages to live up to its housebuilding pledges, it should provide a moderate growth boost – though it will not reverse the effects of years of undersupply. In the long-term, taxes will probably be higher than they would have been under continued Conservative rule, but public investment will likely be higher too. Like the last Labour government, Starmer’s party is focused on “crowding in” private investment for infrastructure.

Closer ties with the EU would go a long way to repairing the adverse growth effects of Brexit, which is widely quoted to have cost the UK economy 5% relative to comparable G7 economies, but Starmer has already ruled out rejoining the single market or its customs union. Without vociferous Brexiteer backbenchers, a Labour government might at least have more conciliatory relations with our largest trading partners – so small trade improvements are possible. Perhaps this is why sterling strengthened against the euro following Sunak’s announcement.

In any case, the Bank of England’s timeline for rate cuts will be much more important for short and medium-term prospects. This will be unaffected by the election, and looking at forward rate expectations, as implied by the bond markets, August remains the most likely date for a first cut. Recently weak consumer data should solidify the Bank of England’s decision.

Nvidia ‘fights’ the Fed – and loses.
As mentioned, US events last week were much more important for markets’ overall mood. Nvidia’s incredible earnings growth for the first quarter showed that the AI boom still has plenty of way to go. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang beamed that generative AI is the “next industrial revolution”. With year-on-year revenues up 262% and profits six-fold (!), the chipmaker is clearly positioned as its baron.

In the early part of last week, the discussion was about the chipmaker’s outsized influence on US and even global equity market sentiment. Thursday showed the limits of that influence, however. Minutes from the Fed’s meeting earlier this month were released, and the tone of discussion was notably more hawkish than markets had been expecting. Despite Nvidia stock jumping 9.3% on the day – and adding an incredible $218 billion to its market cap in the process – the wider S&P fell 0.74%.

The nerviest part for investors was reported talk of whether another rate rise might be needed. While the Fed’s timeline for rate cuts has been consistently pushed back this year, investors have not dared whisper the word hike. Implied rate expectations shifted and shorter-term bond yields (in particular the 2-year yield) picked up, making equities less attractive.

Checks and balances
To be clear, no one thinks a rate hike is the Fed’s likely next move. “Various participants mentioned a willingness to tighten policy further should risks to inflation materialise in a way that such an action became appropriate,” according to the minutes from May 1 meeting, but there is little sign that chairman Powell agreed with those sentiments. The minutes are backwards looking too. Inflation data since then has been more comforting, with a CPI report from mid-month suggesting that the 2% inflation target is on track – albeit a slow, bumpy track.

Really, it should be no surprise that some policymakers feel tighter policy might be needed if inflation stays elevated or moves higher. The US economy has comprehensively proved doubters wrong over the last couple of years, with both resilient growth and consumer sentiment. We have known for a while that inflation pressures are the natural consequence of that strength. The Fed wants to support growth, not choke it off with punishingly high rates. But, many signs suggest that the economy does not need this support and can handle high rates just fine.

The growth-inflation dynamic is currently acting like a system of checks and balances on capital markets. Investors naturally get excited about strong business sentiment and profits, but these come with inflation pressures and ‘higher for longer’ interest rates. As happened last week, the Fed does not actually have to do anything to keep markets from overreaching; the push and pull of growth and inflation expectations does it for them. Decent stock returns, underpinned by earnings growth, are likely in this environment – but melt ups are not. To us, that seems like a reasonable trade-off for long-term investors.

This week’s writers from Tatton Investment Management:
Lothar Mentel
Chief Investment Officer
Jim Kean
Chief Economist
Astrid Schilo
Chief Investment Strategist
Isaac Kean
Investment Writer

Important Information:
This material has been written by Tatton and is for information purposes only and must not be considered as financial advice. We always recommend that you seek financial advice before making any financial decisions. The value of your investments can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you originally invested.

Reproduced from the Tatton Weekly with the kind permission of our investment partners Tatton Investment Management

Who are Vizion Wealth?

Our approach to financial planning is simple, our clients are our number one priority and we ensure all our advice, strategies and services are tailored to the specific individual to best meet their longer term financial goals and aspirations. We understand that everyone is unique. We understand that wealth means different things to different people and each client will require a different strategy to build wealth, use and enjoy it during their lifetimes and to protect it for family and loved ones in the future.

All of us at Vizion Wealth are committed to our client’s financial success and would like to have an opportunity to review your individual wealth goals. To find out more, get in touch with us – we very much look forward to hearing from you.

The information contained in this article is intended solely for information purposes only and does not constitute advice.  While every attempt has been made to ensure that the information contained on this article has been obtained from reliable sources, Vizion Wealth is not responsible for any errors or omissions. In no event will Vizion Wealth be liable to the reader or anyone else for any decision made or action taken in reliance on the information provided in this article.

Posted by Andrew Flowers

Andrew is the managing partner of Vizion Wealth and has been involved in the offshore and onshore financial services industry for over 25 years. Andrew was the driving force behind Vizion Wealth after years of experience in a number of advisory roles within high profile wealth management, private banking and independent financial advisory firms in the UK.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.