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Torsten Sløk: The Fed 'will not cut rates this year'

Apollo Global's chief economist Torsten Sløk is throwing in the towel on rate cuts in 2024.

In an email on Friday, Sløk said the Federal Reserve "will not cut rates this year and rates are going to stay higher for longer" amid a resurgence in growth and stubborn inflation pressures. (Disclosure: Yahoo Finance is owned by Apollo Global Management.)

Financial markets entered 2024 expecting the Fed to cut rates six times this year. Sløk's call on Friday marks a departure from most peers on Wall Street, who still expect the central bank to have at least some room to ease rates off 23-year highs.

Forecasts from the Fed published in December showed Fed officials expected to cut rates three times this year. Updated forecasts from the Fed will be published on March 20 alongside its next monetary policy decision.


Read more: What the Fed rate decision means for bank accounts, CDs, loans, and credit cards

Sløk's note highlighted ten reasons why he sees the Fed holding off on rate cuts, which boil down to three general areas: inflation, growth, and the stock market.

"Underlying measures of trend inflation are moving higher," Sløk wrote.

A bevy of inflation data, including wages, alternative inflation measures from the Cleveland and Atlanta Federal Reserve banks, so-called "supercore" inflation, and manufacturing surveys, suggested durable inflation pressures.

Thursday's inflation reading showed the Fed's preferred measure, the core Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index, rose 0.4% over the prior month in January, the most in a year.

And while the annual rise in core PCE fell to a nearly three-year low, six-month annualized core PCE surged to 2.5% after two consecutive readings below the Fed's 2% target.

In terms of wages, January's jobs report showed average hourly earnings rose 4.5% over the prior year in the first month of 2024.

"Following the Fed pivot in December," Sløk wrote, "the labor market remains tight, jobless claims are very low, and wage inflation is sticky between 4% and 5%."

Fed Chair Jerome Powell suggested in recent public comments that the data didn't yet pose a risk to the Fed bringing inflation back to 2%.

In a press conference on Jan. 30, Powell said wage increases are "not quite back to where they ... need to be in the longer run" for the Fed to reach its goals but added that this data was "moving in the right direction."

Next Friday's February jobs report will offer a crucial update on this front.

Earlier this week, we noted that growth forecasts continue to be revised higher on Wall Street, though these revisions were not yet seen as preventing the Fed from proceeding with rate cuts later this year.

On Thursday, for instance, Bank of America economist Michael Gapen raised his growth forecast for 2024 to 2.1% from 1.2%. The firm still expects three rate cuts this year from the Fed, starting in June.

"Growth expectations for 2024 saw a big jump following the Fed pivot in December and the associated easing in financial conditions," Sløk wrote. "Growth expectations for the US continue to be revised higher."

In December, Fed officials forecast GDP growth would come in at 1.4% this year. These outlooks will also be updated later this month.

US Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference at the headquarters of the Federal Reserve on Jan. 31, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
US Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference at the headquarters of the Federal Reserve on Jan. 31, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) (Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images)

Sløk concluded by detailing how financial conditions continue to ease, which is bolstering M&A markets, credit markets, IPO activity, and, of course, equities. The S&P 500 just finished its best February since 2015, and the Nasdaq closed at a record high on Thursday.

"The bottom line is that the Fed will spend most of 2024 fighting inflation," Sløk wrote.

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